Sunday, August 03, 2014

Four to the Fore

What was once a field of eight candidates for the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel has now been cut in half. Judging convenor Craig Sisterson just announced the list of finalists as follows:

Frederick’s Coat, by Alan Duff (Vintage)
Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Simon & Schuster)
My Brother’s Keeper, by Donna Malane (HarperCollins)
Where Dead Men Go, by Liam McIlvanney (Faber and Faber)

Failing to advance to the next, concluding round are: The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown); Only the Dead, by Ben Sanders (HarperCollins); The Beckoning Ice, by Joan Druett (Old Salt Press); and Cross Fingers, by Paddy Richardson (Hachette).

“This has been without a doubt the broadest, deepest, and most diverse longlist in the five-year history of New Zealand’s crime, mystery, and thriller writing award,” Sisterson wrote recently in his blog, Crime Watch. “That has made for an exceptionally tough decision for the international panel of judges, as all the books are wonderfully written in their own way, but so different, making it hard to compare.”

As one of those judges recruited to devour all eight nominated novels (more than 3,200 pages in total!) and evaluate their relative strengths, I concur with Sisterson. The contenders certainly offered a broad spectrum of reading material--from the densely woven and perfectly period-pitched yarn Catton tells in The Luminaries, and Malane’s tale of a family torn asunder by the long-ago drowning of a child; to the mystery unfolded by Liam McIlvanney (son of the famous William McIlvanney) around a star newspaper reporter’s suspicious death in Glasgow, and Druett’s fifth novel in her series about half-Maori linguist Wiki Coffin, the official investigator traveling with the early 19th-century United States Exploring Expedition. The books’ range of stories and writing styles led to a wide spread of votes among the judges. Sisterson tells me he might have to cast a ballot of his own to “break a near-three or four-way tie for the winner.”

Whatever the ultimate results of this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award competition are, they’ll be broadcast on Saturday, August 30, “following the Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival 2014.”

READ MORE: ‘Rules Are Made to Be Broken’: The Ngaio Marsh Award and Musings on the Borders of Crime Writing” and “Whiter The Luminaries?” by Craig Sisterson (Crime Watch).

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