In a couple of weeks time we'll find out who has won the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. You can read more about our exciting "Murder in the Court" event here.
As Judging Convenor for the award, I can say that this has without doubt been the trickiest year to judge, as the five finalists are all so very different, but all are high quality stories - extremely well-written novels that explore crime and its effects on people in a variety of very different ways and styles. We've had very close calls before, and lots of truly terrific finalists, but this is the deepest and broadest list of finalists yet.
There's something for everyone on our list of 2015 finalists, no matter if you like your crime fiction veering towards the historic, or deep character studies, classic detective investigations, or beautifully evoked settings. Varying themes abound, from the effectiveness of retribution to hidden secrets and learning to move on from the past. Broader issues both societal and psychological are well mined by the five finalists, all through the prism of entertaining, page-turning tales with great plots and characters. Subtext not soapbox.
I thought today I'd share a little more about the five finalists, which have often just been listed in the media releases about the Ngaio Marsh Award, perhaps with a brief judge's comment. So here's a closer look at the five books that are in the running to take home the trophy this year:
FIVE MINUTES ALONE by Paul Cleave (Penguin NZ): if you or someone close to you was affected by violent crime, could you live with the consequences of getting your ‘five minutes alone’ with the culprit? That’s the question raised in Cleave’s fourth Theo Tate thriller (eighth book overall) as the resurrected cop finds himself chasing a vigilante he can sympathise with. A terrific tale full of wounded characters that raises questions about crime, justice, and whether we are more than our worst acts.
THE PETTICOAT MEN by Barbara Ewing (Head of Zeus): inspired by the real-life ‘scandal of the century’ in Victorian London, where the trial of two cross-dressing men who frequented high society generated public outrage and entangled everyone from the Prime Minister to the Royal Family. A well-researched and intriguing historic crime tale brimming with authenticity, that thoughtfully deals with subject matter that could have slipped into lurid sensationalism in the hands of a lesser author.
SWIMMING IN THE DARK by Paddy Richardson (Upstart Press): a mesmerising tale of three women living in small-town New Zealand surviving past misdeeds and making a stand. A German immigrant teacher discovers a pregnant student was raped, and must choose how to deal with the abuses of those in power. Reminiscent of the best Scandinavian psychological thrillers, Richardson evokes a claustrophobic sense of place in a land of open spaces, in a remarkably clever and emotional tale.
THE CHILDREN’S POND by Tina Shaw (Pointer Press): Shaw’s sixth adult novel centres on a mother who moves from Auckland to Turangi to be closer to her imprisoned son. Things are complicated when the body of the sister of a lawyer she’s started a relationship with is discovered, resurrecting her disturbing past. Then a second body is found. A beautifully told tale where the former Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellow combines a whodunnit with a deep character study, and rich sense of place.
FALLOUT by Paul Thomas (Upstart Press): the Godfather of Kiwi crime brings back Detective Tito Ihaka, an unpinned grenade of a man. Recently demoted, Ihaka is charged with moving an almost-forgotten 1987 election night murder from frigid cold case to solved. Meanwhile he gets new information that his trade unionist father’s death may not have been by natural causes. Past collides with present on several fronts, as Thomas skillfully evokes contemporary and 1980s New Zealand in a pulsating and enjoyable tale.
If you'd like to find out more about the five finalists, you can also listen to these great radio interviews and podcasts about the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award:
- Wallace Chapman interviews Craig Sisterson on Radio NZ
- NZ Book Council podcast with Stephen Stratford, Graham Beattie, and Stephanie Jones
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about the Ngaio Marsh Award, New Zealand crime writing, or the local books world after reading or listening to the above. You can leave a comment here or ask a question on the Award's Facebook page or Twitter account. Cheers!
Have you read any of the five finalists? Which would you like to see win?