Saturday, September 01, 2018

The Night of the Ngaios

Backcountry mysteries made headlines last evening, as both of the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards—celebrating the increasing breadth of New Zealand crime fiction—went to novels described as “involv[ing] deadly deeds set against small towns and rural landscapes.”

Best Crime Novel: Marlborough Man, by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Also nominated: See You in September, by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin); Tess, by Kirsten McDougall (VUP); The Sound of Her Voice, by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan); A Killer Harvest, by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press); and The Hidden Room, by Stella Duffy (Virago)

Best First Novel: All Our Secrets, by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira)

Also nominated: The Floating Basin, by Carolyn Hawes; Broken Silence, by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF); The Sound of Her Voice, by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan); and Nothing Bad Happens Here, by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)

This year’s Ngaio judges called Carter’s Marlborough Man—a novel about an ex-undercover agent from England, relocated to life at the top of New Zealand’s South Island after a job gone wrong back home—“a terrific, full-throated crime thriller that puts the freshest of spins on the cop-with-a-past trope.” They added: “Carter is a first-class wordsmith with a particular talent for authentic dialogue. The novel’s setting wholly embraces the people and action, and the overall effect is powerful and persuasive.”

As to short story-writing veteran Lee’s All Our Secrets—narrated by the adolescent spokesperson for a troubled family, and focusing on the disappearances of children from an Australian cult—the judges said: “A very assured debut sitting somewhere between something aimed at older teen readers and something very readable for adults. All Our Secrets is strongly voiced, has a great sense of place, wonderfully drawn characters, and an excellent plot.”

The Ngaio Awards were given out during New Zealand’s WORD Christchurch Festival. Summing up this year’s competition, its founder, Craig Sisterson, observes: “We had a record number of entries, a big influx of exciting new voices, and the welcome return of some of our great crime storytellers from the 1990s and early 2000s, including Stella Duffy and Edmund Bohan.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees.

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