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Criminal histories: tales of past eras dominate 2019 Ngaio Marsh Awards

The return of a queen of crime is not the only blast from the past as several tales exploring historic eras are named among this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists. 

Now in their tenth season, the Ngaio Marsh Awards celebrate the best of New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing. “It’s been a really remarkable year for our international judging panels across all three categories,” says awards founder Craig Sisterson. “For one, we never could have envisaged when we began in 2010 and chose to honour our legendary Kiwi queen of crime with our awards name that years later a book that Dame Ngaio herself began more than 75 years ago would become a finalist.”

Tokoroa-raised Stella Duffy’s brilliant resumption of Dame Ngaio’s charming Inspector Alleyn in a wartime tale set on the Canterbury plains is among five outstanding finalists for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Four of which are set at least fifty years ago:

  • THIS MORTAL BOY by Fiona Kidman (Penguin)

  • MONEY IN THE MORGUE by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy (HarperCollins)

  • THE QUAKER by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)

  • CALL ME EVIE by JP Pomare (Hachette)

  • THE VANISHING ACT by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan Publishing)

“We’ve been blessed with a particularly rich vein of tales exploring past eras in this year’s awards,” says Sisterson, “Not only in the Best Novel category - where our finalists have collectively brought 1940s to 1960s rural and urban New Zealand and late 1960s Glasgow to vivid life, warts and all - but in our Best Non Fiction and Best First Novel categories too.”

The lone contemporary tale among this year’s Best Novel finalists is a mind-bending psychological thriller from one of the freshest voices in Kiwi literature, JP Pomare. 

The Melbourne-based author, who grew up on a horse farm outside Rotorua, is also a finalist in the Best First Novel category alongside the authors of rollicking tale set in the Old West and a hard-hitting story set against the P epidemic. The Best First Novel finalists are:

  • ONE FOR ANOTHER by Andrea Jacka (Red River Pony Publishing)

  • CRYSTAL REIGN by Kelly Lyndon (Remnant Press)

  • CALL ME EVIE by JP Pomare (Hachette)

The finalists for this year’s Best Non-Fiction prize, a biennial category which was first won by Michael Bennett in 2017 for his book about the wrongful conviction of Teina Pora, are:

  • THE GREAT NEW ZEALAND ROBBERY by Scott Bainbridge (Allen & Unwin)

  • THE SHORT LIFE AND MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF JANE FURLONG by Kelly Dennett (Awa Press)

  • BEHIND BARS by Anna Leask (Penguin)

  • THE CAUSE OF DEATH by Cynric Temple-Camp (HarperCollins)

Each of this year’s non-fiction entrants had the ‘gosh’ factor, was impeccably researched, and showed strong knowledge of their subject matter, says judge Douglas Skelton, a Scottish true crime author and novelist. The four finalists stood out for their superior storytelling and ability to make their true tales come to compelling life on the page.

2019 Ngaios finalists & logo.jpg

The 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award finalists will be celebrated with two special events in Christchurch on 14 September, as part of the WORD Christchurch special spring season.

Following a free ‘Meet the Ngaio Marsh finalists’ at 1pm, the Great Ngaio Marsh Game Show & Awards event will be held at 7.30pm in the TSB Space at Tūranga. The winners of the 2019 Ngaios will be announced following a hilarious night of brain teasers and laughs as two teams of local and international criminal minds compete for the title of Sharpest Knives.

“We’re stoked we’ve been able to collaborate with WORD Christchurch to present our awards in Dame Ngaio’s hometown over the last decade,” says Sisterson. “Thanks to Rachael King and her team we’ve had some amazing events. This year raises the bar again.”

For more information on any or all of this year’s finalists or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson, craigsisterson@hotmail.com

 

Sophia Egan-Reid