Monday, August 10, 2020

Fresh perspectives and first-time offenders: 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists revealed

Fresh perspectives and first-time offenders:
2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists revealed

A diverse array of fresh contenders have amassed to challenge New Zealand’s king of crime fiction as the finalists for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards were revealed today

“Ten years after we launched the Ngaio Marsh Awards to help celebrate excellence in local crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing it’s heartening to see so many new voices infusing and stretching our #yeahnoir community,” says founder Craig Sisterson.

“While we’ve had around 80 debut authors enter the Ngaios in recent years, it’s also been fantastic to see many experienced Kiwi storytellers become first-time Ngaios entrants as they’ve entertained readers and explored society through these types of stories.”

Along with the finalists in the Best First Novel category, for the first time two debut authors – Becky Manawatu and RWR McDonald – have been named finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Two of the other finalists – Gudrun Frerichs and Renée – are also first-time crime and thriller writers (having previously published in other genres). They’re joined by 2019 Best First Novel winner JP Pomare and three-time Best Novel winner Paul Cleave.

The finalists for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards are:


  • Whatever it Takes by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
  • Girl from the Tree House by Gudrun Frerichs
  • Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
  • The Nancys by RWR McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
  • In the Clearing by JP Pomare (Hachette NZ)
  • The Wild Card by Renée (The Cuba Press)


  • Tugga’s Mob by Stephen Johnson (Clan Destine Press)
  • Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
  • The Nancys by RWR McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
  • Into the Void by Christina O’Reilly

This year’s finalists are a fascinating group of Kiwi storytellers who’ve collectively won or been shortlisted for accolades in New Zealand and overseas including the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement, the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, the Australian Book Industry Awards, the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, the Saint-Maur Crime Novel of the Year in France, and the Edgar Awards and Barry Awards in the United States.

“Our international judging panels have been dealing with a range of rāhui and lockdown situations this year but have thoroughly enjoyed reading the range and quality of stories offered by our Kiwi authors,” says Sisterson. “There were differing favourites, tough decisions, and some great reads our judges loved that didn’t become finalists. A decade on from our inaugural Ngaio Marsh Awards, our local genre is certainly in great health.”

Each category of the Ngaio Marsh Awards is judged by a separate international panel, consisting of book critics for print and online publications, bestselling authors, university academics, and festival directors from the USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

The finalists for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards will be celebrated, and winners announced, at the WORD Christchurch Spring Festival, being held from 29 October to 1 November.

“It’s been a tough year for so many people,” says Sisterson. “We’re glad to be able to highlight some great Kiwi storytelling. All over the world, people turned to the fruits of the creative industries while in lockdown – reading books and watching films and shows for entertainment, learning, comfort, and escape. While we were saddened to have to cancel a dozen or more library events in April and May, to help keep everyone safe, we’re stoked we now have a chance to once again celebrate some of our local authors. We’re grateful for the support of Rachael King and WORD Christchurch, and the efforts of all New Zealanders.”

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

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