Friday, February 9, 2024


EVERYONE ON THIS TRAIN IS A SUSPECT by Benjamin Stevenson (Michael Joseph, Feb 2024)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

When the Australian Mystery Writers' Society invited me to their crime-writing festival aboard the Ghan, the famous train between Darwin and Adelaide, I was hoping for some inspiration for my second book. Fiction, this time: I needed a break from real people killing each other. Obviously, that didn't pan out.

The program is a who's who of crime writing royalty: the debut writer (me!), the forensic science writer, the blockbuster writer, the legal thriller writer, the literary writer, the psychological suspense writer. But when one of us is murdered, six authors quickly turn into five detectives. Together, we should know how to solve a crime. Or commit one ... But how do you catch a killer, when all your suspects know how to get away with murder?

After a couple of solid mysteries to begin his oeuvre, Australian author and stand-up comedian Benjamin Stevenson hit an absolute grand slam with his startlingly clever and absolutely delightful third at-bat, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone. Stevenson gave himself a high degree of difficulty too, setting up his homage to classic mysteries with the narrator Ernie Cunningham, a ‘how-to’ writer turned recorder of events, outlining the fair play rules and Golden Age ‘Ten Commandments’ at the off, while even telling us on what pages deaths will occur. Like Houdini, Stevenson tied himself up, then proceeded to dazzle us with his sleight of hand and storytelling.

How do you follow-up a book like that, which delighted in longstanding tropes and genre ‘rules’, danced with meta while being brilliantly structured and told, and was both timeless and fresh?

Somehow, Stevenson has done it again with Everyone on This Train is a Suspect, a superb mystery that manages to surprise and delight even when we think we know how the game is played now. This time around Ernie has been invited to a unique crime writing festival, which will take place aboard the famous Ghan train from Darwin to Adelaide, slicing through the iconic Red Centre of Australia. A trip to celebrate 50 years of the Australian Mystery Writers’ Society. Rubbing shoulders with mystery writers, agents, editors, and keen readers, Ernie hope he may be inspired in some way for his stalled second book. It’s not so easy, he finds, to come up with fictional murders rather than just retelling the true stories from behind the scenes of his own family’s headline-grabbing violence.

He really doesn’t want to have to return his advance for an unwritten novel.

Ernie, the debut writer, is joined on the programme by authors of forensic science mysteries, legal thrillers, blockbuster bestsellers, psychological suspense, and even a noted literary author. A combustible mix. But when one of the writers is killed (obviously not Ernie, or how would he tell the tale? Fair play, after all), the other five turn into detectives trying to solve the crime.

Then again, with a whole group of people gathered who know lots of ways to commit and hide crimes, and how to get away with murder (at least fictionally), where does the danger truly lie?

Put simply, Everyone on This Train is a Suspect is sublime. It’s ridonkuously clever and brilliantly structured, with Stevenson demonstrating a Penn and Teller level of storytelling magic – giving away some of the secrets, showing you how a trick is done, yet still managing to surprise and amaze. There are lots of twists and turns, both in the mystery storyline and the relationships between characters, including Ernie and his amour Juliette, the former owner of the resort where the Cunningham family killings occurred. Juliette also wrote a book on those events, but chose to accompany Ernie on the Ghan trip even though she’s not on the festival programme herself.

There’s an unabashed playfulness, almost tongue in cheek, to Stevenson’s storyline and storytelling, where he’s both honouring and parodying classic Golden Age mysteries. Ernie offers clues along the way, such as the number of times he’ll mention the killer or killers’ name, updating the count at times for our benefit, and things once again get a little meta, while also being dosed with some high-octane action reminiscent of Western movies as the Ghan chugs through the Australian desert.

Along the way Stevenson seems to show us and his protagonist that death is not just a clever puzzle to solve - it has far greater impact than that. He does this via an extraordinarily clever puzzle, of course. It’s early on in the year, but Everyone on This Train is a Suspect may very well end up one of the best mystery reads of the year; a smile-inducing, brain-whirring magic trick, with heart.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned writer, editor, podcast host, and event chair. He's the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, co-founder of Rotorua Noir festival, author of Macavity and HRF Keating Award-shortlisted non-fiction work SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, series editor of the DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER anthology, and writes about books for magazines and newspapers in several countries.

Thursday, February 8, 2024


THE LAST WORD by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, Jan 2024)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Natalka and Edwin are running a detective agency in Shoreham, Sussex. Despite a steady stream of minor cases, Natalka is frustrated, longing for a big juicy investigation to come the agency’s way. Then a murder case turns up. Local writer, Melody Chambers, is found dead and her family are convinced it is murder. Edwin, a big fan of the obit pages, thinks there’s a link to the writer of Melody’s obituary who pre-deceased his subject.

The trail leads them to a slightly sinister writers’ retreat. When another writer is found dead, Edwin thinks that the clue lies in the words. Seeking professional help, the amateur investigators turn to their friend, detective Harbinder Kaur, to find that they have stumbled on a plot that is stranger than fiction.

While prolific British author Elly Griffiths has been delighting readers all over the world with her bestselling Ruth Galloway mysteries over the past fifteen years, she hasn’t been afraid to stray from the coastal Norwich setting or her beloved forensic archaeologist heroine. It was a then-standalone tale, The Stranger Diaries, which scooped the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2020.

That book introduced DS Harbinder Kaur as a supporting character. Then in between further Ruth Galloway Mysteries, and some of Griffiths other series of Brighton Mysteries, Kaur returned in The Postscript Murders, a novel that was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger and saw the introduction of an unusual investigative trio: octogenarian Edwin, former monk Benedict, and carer Natalka, who is originally from the Ukraine. The amateurs help and hinder Kaur as she tries to uncover the truth behind the death of Natalka’s neighbour, and a potential spate of dying writers.

Now, The Last Word sees a welcome encore for the crew. After the events of the previous book, Benedict, now Natalka’s live-in beau, runs his coffee shop on the southern coast of England, while Natalka and elderly Edwin have opened an agency and dabble in minor investigations day-to-day. But with Natalka’s mother Valentyna having moved into their tiny flat from war-torn Ukraine, while her brother fights the Russians, tensions are high. What they need is a good murder to solve!

When local writer Melody Chambers is found dead and her family suspect foul play, the game is afoot. Especially after Edwin notices strange connections in the obituary pages. When Edwin and Benedict go undercover at a rural writers’ retreat, the body count rises. Are the clues on the page as well as off? Griffiths expertly reels us in, delivering a fabulous tale full of wit, intrigue, and wonderful characters. 

A thoroughly enjoyable read in a growing series, from a masterful storyteller.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned writer, editor, podcast host, and event chair. He's the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, co-founder of Rotorua Noir festival, author of Macavity and HRF Keating Award-shortlisted non-fiction work SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, series editor of the DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER anthology, and writes about books for magazines and newspapers in several countries.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024


EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper (Faber, 2023)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

In Hollywood, nobody talks. But everybody whispers... Welcome to Mae Pruett’s LA. A ‘black-bag’ publicist at one of Hollywood’s most powerful crisis PR firms, Mae’s job isn’t to get good news out, it’s to keep the bad news in and contain the scandals. But just as she starts to question her job and life choices, her boss is gunned down in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and everything changes.

Investigating with the help of an ex-boyfriend, Mae dives headlong into a neon joyride through the jungle of contemporary Hollywood. Pitted against the twisted system she’s worked so hard to perpetuate, she’s desperately fighting for redemption, and her life.

It’s appropriate that Hollywood screenwriter Jordan Harper (The Mentalist, Gotham) begins his exquisite noir Everybody Knows at the infamous Chateau Marmont. Overlooking Sunset Boulevard and loosely modelled on a French royal getaway, the hotel and celebrity residence has seen it all over its 90-plus years, cycling through renovation and disrepair, generations of Hollywood glitterati on the rise and fall.

Harper masterfully takes readers on a skin-crawling journey through an amoral landscape that resides beneath the glamour and mythology of Hollywood, with ‘black bag’ publicist Mae Pruett as our guide. Most publicists try to get their clients into the public eye, cutting through the noise to garner maximum attention. Mae’s job is to strangle stories pre-birth, to divert attention like a magician; look here, not here. When Mae arrives at the Chateau Marmont, her client, a fading 20-something starlet, has a black eye from a sugar Daddy date gone wrong and could lose her film gig. Mae puts that fire out, another flares. Then Mae’s boss is gunned down, taking secrets with him, and Mae finds herself teaming with ex-lover and ex-Sheriff’s Deputy Chris, who works similar dark arts as private security.

Can Mae and Chris survive when the very Beast they’ve served turns on them? Harper’s stylish prose enlivens a sordid journey behind the curtain of modern-day Hollywood, where money, power, and excess feast from the boulevard of broken dreams.

Everybody Knows is not just a best of the year contender, but a best of many years.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned writer, editor, podcast host, and event chair. He's the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, co-founder of Rotorua Noir festival, author of Macavity and HRF Keating Award-shortlisted non-fiction work SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, series editor of the DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER anthology, and writes about books for magazines and newspapers in several countries.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Character first: 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards winners deep-dive into the personal and societal impact of violence and tragedy

2023 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel winner Charity Norman (right)
with New Zealand's modern 'queen of crime' Vanda Symon

A trio of superb New Zealand writers were honoured at a special WORD Christchurch event on Friday night as they scooped the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards for books delivering rich character studies alongside exquisite crime storytelling. 

In the fourteenth instalment of Aotearoa’s annual awards celebrating excellence in crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing, Hawke’s Bay author Charity Norman won Best Novel for Remember Me (Allen & Unwin), while renowned journalist Steve Braunias scooped Best Non-Fiction for Missing Persons (HarperCollins), and acclaimed filmmaker and author Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) made Ngaios history when he was named the winner of Best First Novel for Better the Blood (Simon & Schuster).

“It was a superb night to cap an outstanding year for the Ngaio Marsh Awards, with our terrifically strong and varied group of finalists,” says founder Craig Sisterson. “This year’s winners are world-class writers, who collectively showcase how our local take on one of the world’s most popular forms of storytelling – and our Kiwi creative artists in general – can like our sportspeople match up against the best from anywhere.”

On Friday night, following a celebratory quiz held at Tūranga in association with WORD Christchurch, Kiwi crime queen and recent Traitors NZ star Vanda Symon announced Braunias as the winner of the biennial Best Non-Fiction prize for Missing Persons, his collection of 12 extraordinary tales of death and disappearance in Aotearoa. “A fascinating investigation of where people had become lost: to society, themselves, their families,” said the judges. “His writing is so informed and informative. Braunias has put in the legwork, knows his material, and because of that manages to make each piece something personal.”

Braunias accepts the non-fiction prize
The international judging panels for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards comprised leading crime fiction critics, editors, and authors from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Scotland, and the United States.

Bennett became the first storyteller to collect fiction and non-fiction categories at the Ngaio Marsh Awards, having won the first-ever Best Non-Fiction prize in 2017 for In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-cop's Fight for Justice. Braunias was a finalist that year for The Scene of the Crime.

The judges praised Better the Blood, the tale of a Māori detective confronting her own heritage while hunting a serial killer, as an “audacious and powerful blend of history, polemic, and crime thriller” that upends the typical serial-killer sleuth dynamic while exploring the violence and legacy of colonisation.

Winning a Ngaio is the latest accolade for Bennett’s crime fiction debut, which has also been shortlisted for awards and named on ‘best of the year’ lists in the UK and US, translated into several European languages, and earlier this year became the first detective novel ever shortlisted for the Acorn Prize for Fiction.

Norman, a three-time Ngaios finalist, was “overwhelmed” when Symon announced she’d won Best Novel for Remember Me, a tale set in the Ruahine Ranges where a family and community are upturned by disturbing revelations about a young woman’s disappearance. “There’s an Olympian degree of difficulty in this novel,” said the judges. “To write about characters facing devastating, mind-altering health diagnoses and blend these everyday tragedies – all too familiar to some readers – into an elevated suspense novel, while steering clear of mawkishness and self-pity … Remember Me is an astounding piece of work.”

Norman receives $1,000 courtesy of WORD Christchurch, long-time partner of the Ngaio Marsh Awards.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Mina, Russell, McSorley and Morrison: 2023 McIlvanney finalists revealed


This morning the finalists for the 2023 McIlvanney Prize have been announced, with the following four books emerging from a very strong longlist of contenders for Scotland's prestigious annual crime writing award, named in memory of the 'Godfather of Tartan Noir', the great William McIlvanney: 

SQUEAKY CLEAN by Callum McSorley (Pushkin): the judges said: "A wonderfully rich and funny new voice in Scottish crime. McSorley has created characters you invest in and plot that keeps you hooked right from the start."
THE SECOND MURDERER by Denise Mina (Vintage): the judges said: "Seriously stylish and oozing with attitude, this Philip Marlowe mystery is an exquisite read."
CAST A COLD EYE by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan): the judges said: "A story inhabited by brilliantly drawn characters. Not just a crime novel but a vivid and immersive account of life in Glasgow in the 1930s."
THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND by Craig Russell (Little, Brown): the judges said: "Mesmerising from the start. Devilishly dark and dripping with menace. A breath-taking masterclass in twisty crime writing."

The judges for the 2023 McIlvanney Prize 2023, being BBC Scotland presenter Bryan Burnett, former editor of The Sunday Times Scotland Jason Allardyce, and Category Manager for Waterstones, Angie Crawford, were unanimous in their praise for all four finalists. 

The quartet includes two previous winners, Craig Russell and Denise Mina, a previous winner of the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize, Robbie Morrison, and debut author Callum McSorley.
The four finalists, along with the authors shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize, will lead a torchlit procession from Stirling Castle to the Albert Halls on Friday 15 September where the winners of both prizes will be revealed and interviewed on stage by BBC Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth. 

These events are part of a three-day annual showcase of crime writing at Bloody Scotland, which is Scotland's international crime writing festival. Both prizes are again sponsored by The Glencairn Glass, Kirsty Nicholson, Design and Marketing Manager at Glencairn Crystal, said: 
"Now in our third year of sponsoring these prestigious awards with the Glencairn Glass, we’re very proud to be a part of this amazing Scottish annual event in the world of crime fiction. We continue to be impressed and enthralled by the talented authors who enter and we wish everyone the very best of luck."
The 2023 Bloody Scotland festival begins at 1.30pm on Friday, 15 September, with the final event concluding at 2pm on Sunday 17 September. It takes place at various venues in the historic centre of Stirling, including the Albert Halls, Trinity Church, and the Golden Lion Hotel. 

Legendary Scottish authors Val McDermid, Liam McIlvanney, and Denise Mina
at the torchlit parade at a past Bloody Scotland

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Review: PROM MOM

PROM MOM by Laura Lippman (Faber, 2023)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

New York Times bestseller Laura Lippman tells the story of Amber Glass, desperately trying to get away from her tabloid past but compulsively drawn back to the city of her youth and the prom date who destroyed everything she was reaching for.

After establishing herself as terrific, award-winning voice in modern crime writing with her excellent, long-running series starring Baltimore reporter turned private eye Tess Monaghan, in recent years New York Times bestseller Laura Lippman has continually challenged herself and delighted readers and critics with a string of very different standalones. From multi-layered Wilde Lake exploring family secrets, changing smalltown mores and stories we tell ourselves, to the extraordinary, multi-narrated Lady in the Lake exploring racial tensions and many forms of bigotry in 1960s Baltimore, to 2021’s claustrophobic suspense Dream Girl, with its nod to Stephen King, Lippman’s been masterful.

Now, she plunges us into a slow-burn thriller that digs into a ‘whatever happened to?’ scenario, decades after a tabloid headlines style scandal. Amber Glass desperately wants to escape her tragic past but is compulsively drawn back to her hometown and Joe, the now-middle-aged man who was Amber’s prom date one fateful night that changed her life forever, destroying her teenage dreams.

Amber fears she’ll always wear the tabloid moniker ‘Prom Mom’ like a scarlet letter – the teenager who gave birth on Prom night then allegedly killed her newborn after her date abandoned her for another girl. So Baltimore is the last place she wants to be, until circumstances draw her home. Could she have a second chance? Regardless, she really should avoid Joe, now a successful commercial real estate developer married to a plastic surgeon, but it’s a small city, and there still seems a strange connection between them. As the world plunges into uncertainty, Amber and Joe find themselves circling each other before crossing lines – but how much will Amber sacrifice?

Lippman lures readers in and takes us on a suspenseful ride that flows so smoothly it perhaps obscures her mastery. Like watching a talented musician onstage – or perhaps a special athlete on the field of play – Lippman makes things that are difficult look so deceptively easy that we perhaps underappreciate the brilliance on show. There’s a fluidity, flow, and ease; mastery at a high level. 

Prom Mom is another jewel in the crown of a modern-day Empress of the crime genre. 

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned writer, editor, podcast host, and event chair. He's the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, author of Macavity and HRF Keating Award-shortlisted non-fiction work SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, series editor of the DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER anthology, and writes about books for magazines and newspapers in several countries.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

History and humanity: 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists revealed


History and humanity: 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists plunge readers into page-turning tales about who we are

From heart-wrenching tales of families torn apart by disappearance or deportation to examinations of historic crimes, swindles, and injustices to page-whirring novels about former cops and former convicts, the finalists for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards offer a diverse array of storytelling excellence

“When we first launched New Zealand’s own annual prizes for crime, mystery, and thriller writing in 2010, we modelled our Ngaio Marsh Awards on the Hammett Prize in North America, which celebrates literary excellence in crime writing,” says Ngaio Marsh Awards founder Craig Sisterson. “The Ngaios have never been solely about detective fiction; instead highlighting and celebrating outstanding Kiwi storytellers whose tales, fictional and factual, explore the investigation of crime or the impact or effects of crime on people and society.” 

The 2023 Ngaios finalists announced today across three categories, like many previous years, says Sisterson, underline that original ethos. This year’s finalists range across an array of styles, settings, and stories, exploring important topics from radical empathy and redemption in one of the world’s most notorious psychiatric facilities to familial grief, dealing with dementia, mass surveillance, and the ongoing impact of colonisation and the Dawn Raids. 

“The consistent thread throughout this diverse array of Kiwi books is quality storytelling that struck a chord with our international judging panels of crime writing experts from several countries,” says Sisterson. “As the likes of Val McDermid have said, if you want to better understand a place, read its crime fiction. Crime writing is a broad church nowadays, including but going far beyond the traditional puzzling mysteries of Dames Ngaio and Agatha Christie, and can deliver insights about society and humanity alongside rollicking reads. Many of our finalists showcase something about who we are, as people and a nation.” 

The finalists for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non-Fiction, a biennial prize previously won by filmmaker Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) for IN DARK PLACES, a book about the wrongful conviction of Teina Pora, by Kelly Dennett for THE SHORT LIFE AND MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF JANE FURLONG, and most recently by Martin van Beynen for BLACK HANDS:

  • A NEW DAWN by Emeli Sione (Mila’s Books)
  • THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Dr Gwen Adshead & Eileen Horne (Faber)
  • DOWNFALL: THE DESTRUCTION OF CHARLES MACKAY by Paul Diamond (Massey University Press)
  • THE FIX by Scott Bainbridge (Bateman Books)
  • MISSING PERSONS by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)

Each of this year’s non-fiction finalists delivered compelling stories that immersed readers in a variety of subject matters, from historical figures and crimes to deeply personal stories. 

“There were some stellar non-fiction reads this year,” said the international judging panel of Scottish journalist and true crime writer turned novelist Douglas Skelton, Auckland lawyer Darise Bennington, and Ngaios founder Craig Sisterson. “From well-researched and fascinating dissections of historic events to deeply informed and personal tales, to disturbing yet engrossing accounts of the humanity behind shocking acts, we have terrific finalists.” 

The finalists for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel are:

  • ONE HEART ONE SPADE by Alistair Luke
  • TOO FAR FROM ANTIBES by Bede Scott (Penguin SEA)
  • BETTER THE BLOOD by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster)
  • SURVEILLANCE by Riley Chance (CopyPress Books)
  • THE SLOW ROLL by Simon Lendrum (Upstart Press)
  • PAPER CAGE by Tom Baragwanath (Text Publishing)

“There is no shortage of fresh ideas in New Zealand crime fiction, nor in breadth of style, with this year's entrants running from chilling thrillers to the cosier end of the spectrum,” says British journalist and book reviewer Louise Fairbairn, the Chair of an international judging panel for the Best First Novel category that also included South African writer Sonja van der Westhuizen, British reviewer and longtime CWA Daggers judge Ayo Onatade, and Australian podcaster and author Dani Vee. “Those debuts that particularly caught our attention were unafraid to explore difficult real-life issues and embed themselves in an authentic New Zealand of rough edges and grey areas, rather than glossy make-believe.”

Lastly, the finalists for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel are:

  • EXIT .45 by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
  • BLUE HOTEL by Chad Taylor (Brio Books)
  • REMEMBER ME by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
  • THE DOCTOR’S WIFE by Fiona Sussman (Bateman Books)
  • BETTER THE BLOOD by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster)
  • BLOOD MATTERS by Renée (The Cuba Press)
  • THE SLOW ROLL by Simon Lendrum (Upstart Press)

“It’s a very strong group of finalists to emerge from a dazzlingly varied longlist,” says Sisterson. “This year’s entrants gave our international judging panels lots to chew over, and plenty of books judges enjoyed and loved didn’t become finalists. ‘Yeahnoir’, our local spin on some of the world’s most popular storytelling forms, is certainly in fine health.”

The winners of the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards will be announced at a special event held in association with WORD Christchurch in Spring, details and date to be confirmed soon. 

For more information on any or all of our 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists, or the Ngaios in general, please contact, or founder Craig Sisterson,   

Friday, June 30, 2023

Poker, poverty, and the power of storytelling: 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award longlist revealed

Poker, poverty, and the power of storytelling: 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award longlist revealed

A poker-playing sleuth, a poet’s gritty take on life on Aotearoa’s poverty line, a rural mystery entwined with heart-wrenching exploration of dementia, and the long-awaited return of a master of neo-noir are among the diverse tales named today on the longlist for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel.

Now in their fourteenth season, the Ngaio Marsh Awards celebrate excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller writing. They are named for Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, who penned bestselling mysteries that entertained millions of global readers from her home in the Cashmere Hills.

“I’d like to think Dame Ngaio would be proud of how our modern Kiwi storytellers are continuing her literary legacy, bringing fresh perspectives and a cool mix of fascinating tales to one of the world’s most popular storytelling forms,” says awards founder Craig Sisterson. “In recent years we seem to be going through our own golden age, with our local writers offering a treasure trove of terrific stories for readers at home and all over the world.”

The longlist for the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel includes a mix of past winners and finalists, several first-time entrants and new voices, and the long-awaited return of one of the leading lights of the early 2000s New Zealand literary scene. 

“In crime and thriller writing it’s natural for authors to make it really tough on their characters,” says Sisterson, “but our entrants made it tough on our judges too. This year’s longlist is a wonderful showcase of Kiwi creativity, with a great range of stories that explore some deep and very important issues in among the page-turning intrigue and thrills.”

The Ngaio Marsh Awards have celebrated the best New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing since 2010. The longlist for this year’s Best Novel prize is: 
  • TOO FAR FROM ANTIBES by Bede Scott (Penguin SEA)
  • EXIT .45 by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
  • REMEMBER ME by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
  • BLUE HOTEL by Chad Taylor (Brio Books)
  • POOR PEOPLE WITH MONEY by Dominic Hoey (Penguin)
  • THE DARKEST SIN by DV Bishop (Macmillan)
  • THE DOCTOR’S WIFE by Fiona Sussman (Bateman Books)
  • MIRACLE by Jennifer Lane (Cloud Ink Press)
  • BETTER THE BLOOD by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster)
  • IN HER BLOOD by Nikki Crutchley (HarperCollins)
  • THE PAIN TOURIST by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
  • BLOOD MATTERS by Renée (The Cuba Press)
  • THE SLOW ROLL by Simon Lendrum (Upstart Press)
  • PAPER CAGE by Tom Baragwanath (Text Publishing)

The longlist is currently being considered by an international judging panel of crime and thriller writing experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Finalists for Best Novel, Best First Novel, and Best Non-Fiction will be announced in August, with the finalists celebrated and the winners announced as part of a special event held in association with WORD Christchurch later in the year.

For more information on this year’s Best Novel longlist, or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact, or founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson,