Thursday, August 18, 2011

So, who's going to win then?

With the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel about to be presented this weekend, I thought it was time to ask you - my knowledgeable Crime Watch readers, which of the books you think might win the Award in its second year.

We have four truly terrific finalists this year, that represent quite a diverse range of styles, settings, and storytelling. Each is a very good read in its own way, although readers will each have their own favourites, based on their own preferences, of course. But who will win? Who will the judges - international and New Zealand crime fiction experts - prefer?

Here's my summarised take on what's good and great about each of the four finalists (listed alphabetically), as shared with the Herald on Sunday last weekend:

Blood Men by Paul Cleave (Random House)
Cleave's prose crackles with energy in this dark tale told from the skewed viewpoint of Edward, an accountant trying to track those responsible for shattering his family. Cleave gets you deep inside the head of a troubled man, and takes you on a great ride story-wise, with plenty of twists in plot and character to keep you on your toes.

Captured by Neil Cross (Simon & Schuster)
Cross vividly takes readers into some uneasy places as dying Kenny seeks to set right past mistakes, discovering that an old friend is missing, her husband suspected but free. It's a page-turner with terse prose powering a pacy story that touches on wider themes like justice, the importance we sometimes place on fleeting events, memory and reality, and concerns about what legacy each of us may leave behind.

Hunting Blind by Paddy Richardson (Penguin)
Richardson's tale of a woman who is trying to uncover what really happened to her sister years ago expertly melds family drama and psychological suspense. Highlights of this novel include the evocation of the South Island scenery, a lingering sense of unease, and the way Richardson delves into the complexity of human relationships and the aftermath of high-profile tragedy; uncovering the very real and ongoing effects after the media circus leaves.

Slaughter Falls by Alix Bosco (Penguin)
Anna Markunas is an intriguing heroine - middle-aged and multi-layered - who finds herself investigating a puzzling death from a Queensland holiday. There's plenty of the tension (personal and plot) and vivid action-packed moments that readers (and judges) enjoyed in Cut & Run, but Bosco has amped up the personal, character-based parts of the story, and developed Markunas further as a series character.

The judging panel praised all of these crime novels highly - they really are a great representation of quality contemporary Kiwi crime writing. The judges praised BLOOD MEN as “a gruesomely gripping story” told “in clean, sharp prose, with authentically laconic dialogue and flashes of very dark humour”; said CAPTURED was “fascinating”, with “amazing twists and turns” and a “main character who was drawn so well”; rated HUNTING BLIND highly for its “sense of downright creepiness” and “some fascinatingly complex characters”; and were impressed by “the depth and complexity” and “well-executed plot unfolding at a good pace” in SLAUGHTER FALLS.

Each of the four novels would be a worthy and deserving winner. And each has been listed as a 'favourite' by various crime fiction readers I know. I really don't think the judges can go wrong, no matter which of these books ends up winning the Ngaio Marsh Award this year. But I'd really love to read what you think about the finalists, which ones you've read, and which one(s) you like best. Please share your thoughts.

Who do you think will or should win the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel?

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