Craig Sisterson, author of the Down Under blog Crime Watch, has announced that Paul Thomas’ Death on Demand (Hachette NZ) is the winner of New Zealand’s 2013 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. That 2012 work is the fourth installment in Thomas’ series about unorthodox Maori police detective Tito Ihaka, and the first new entry to appear in a decade and a half.
“Ihaka is a tremendous character in New Zealand fiction, an anarchic knight errant of a copper who gives readers a feeling of a time bomb waiting to detonate,” says Sisterson, who’s also the judging convener of the Ngaio Marsh prize. “It was terrific to see Thomas bring him back in Death on Demand, particularly as that duo forever changed the landscape of New Zealand crime writing in the mid-1990s, tearing our genre from its cozy confines into mayhem-filled modernity.”
Thomas’ novel was up against three other strong contenders:
• The Laughterhouse, by Paul Cleave (Penguin)
• Faceless, by Vanda Symon (Penguin)
• Little Sister, by Julian Novitz (Random House)
Having been invited to help judge this year’s Ngaio Marsh competition (thanks, Craig!), I read all four of the nominated novels. It was a delightful opportunity to begin exploring New Zealand crime fiction, an area of this genre with which I’d had comparatively little contact before. I was not surprised to learn from Sisterson that “this year has seen the closest results in the history of the award.” Indeed, all four of the nominees were entertaining and engrossing, though I agree that Death on Demand deserved its win. I’m hoping Thomas, having resurrected his sleuth, will go on to deliver more entries in that series. You can sign me up for copies right now.
The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel was established in 2010. It has previously gone to Neil Cross (Luther: The Calling), Paul Cleave (Blood Men), and Alix Bosco (Cut & Run). In addition to the prize itself, author Thomas will receive a complete set of Dame Ngaio’s novels, courtesy of publisher HarperCollins, and a check for $1,000 from the Christchurch Writers Festival Trust.