On Saturday night, the winners of the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Awards will be announced following the Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival.
It is the seventh year that the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel will be presented (Alix Bosco first won for CUT & RUN in 2010), but for the first time a brand new award for debut authors, the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel, will also be made.
There were a record number of entries this year – in fact the debut award alone had more entries than many previous years of the Best Crime Novel award. Kiwi Noir seems in strong, growing health.
Each award was judged by a separate international panel made up of crime fiction experts (critics, editors, authors), from New Zealand, Australia, the USA, the UK, and the Nordic countries.
Here's a final look at this year's contenders:
The finalists for the first-ever Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel are:
- INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE by Ray Berard (Mary Egan Publishing): an armed robbery of a Rotorua pub interrupts a drug deal, upending many lives and lighting the fuse on a violent chain of events that exposes a grittier side of Aotearoa. The panel called it “A lucid and potent portrait of good people and gangsters that is unmistakably Kiwi in flavour and tone... a fine crime story with considerable depth". Read my review here.
- THE FIXER by John Daniell (Upstart Press): a former All Blacks first five is looking to cash in on his waning career in the lucrative French league, but when he meets an exotic journalist there is far more than publicity on offer. The judges praised it as: “A taut, topical and often acerbic thriller set in the world of professional rugby and exploring themes of temptation, pride, corruption and masculinity". Read my review here.
- THE GENTLEMEN’S CLUB by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan Publishing): the lives of a Hungarian bridge builder, hairdresser madam, and troubled teenager collide as they try to survive among the seedy backstreets of post-war Auckland. The judges called it “an imaginative historical novel that focuses on crimes against children while weaving in multiple elements of social history – pacy and intriguing.” Listen to Louise O'Brien's review here.
- TWISTER by Jane Woodham (RosaMira Books): a Dunedin detective haunted by the disappearance of his young daughter is forced to confront professional and personal traumas as he investigates the death of a local schoolgirl. The panel praised it as: “Tightly plotted with a superb sense of setting and emulsive blend of the immediate with the historical and emotional – suspenseful and propulsive.” Read Karen Chisholm's review here.
- INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE by Ray Berard (Mary Egan Publishing): the lives of a vicious gang leader, a widowed publican, and an immigrant investigator are thrown together and forever changed by a young man’s desperate and violent act. The panel called it a “cracking great novel with some interesting underlying themes and a well-evoked setting - sociologically and geographically.”
- MADE TO KILL by Adam Christopher (Titan Books): in 1950s LA, the last robot on earth is acting as a hulking private eye specialising in secretive and deadly jobs thanks to his 24-hour memory. But when a new client asks for his help then vanishes, he can’t let it go. The judges described it as “highly entertaining and original - all a bit daft but really gripping and a hugely enjoyable read.” Read my review here.
- TRUST NO ONE by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press): a bestselling crime writer is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and confesses that the murders in his books were real. His caregivers know it’s just part of his disease, but then why are people dying? The judges praised it as “a stunningly audacious novel that functions as a literary hall of mirrors... it succeeds brilliantly on many different levels”. Listen to Louise O'Brien's review here.
- THE LEGEND OF WINSTONE BLACKHAT by Tanya Moir (Vintage): Winstone is a 12-year-old runaway hiding out on the plains of Central Otago, fantasising about the adventures he and his partner have in the Wild West. But why is Winstone on the run? The judges praised it as: “a haunting novel of angst and breathtaking beauty that explores the outcomes of crime and the effects on victims”. Listen to Elizabeth Easther's review here.
- AMERICAN BLOOD by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin): a former New York City undercover cop now in witness protection in the rural Southwest finds himself pulled into the search for a missing woman, reigniting dangers from his own past. The panel called it “a lean action novel, superbly plotted and paced, with a riveting, enigmatic and tenacious new hero just screaming for an ongoing series”. Read my review here.
Eight different books are finalists. Just who will win?