Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Dark Deeds and Fresh Blood

This year's longlistees are a diverse array of crime & thriller tales

Craig every second Tuesday

Kia ora and gidday everyone,

Hope all of you reading have had a great solstice in the past week - Summer Solstice in the north (and Midsommar in Sweden - we celebrated on Saturday with some Swedish friends at our allotment garden) and Winter Solstice for my friends and family in Aotearoa New Zealand and other countries in the south. 

Last week was also notable in New Zealand (well, in the crime writing world, at least) for the reveal of the longlist for the 2022 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. The 'Ngaios' as they are colloquially known, have been running since 2010 and celebrate the best crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing from New Zealand authors. 

As someone who's been involved with the Ngaios since the very beginning, it's been wonderful to see the growth in entries over the years, and even moreso the breadth, quality, and diversity of the stories being written. 

After studying law in Duendin, wannabe playwright Fergus Hume wrote THE MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB as a calling card for Melbourne theatre producers

New Zealand has a long history in crime writing - in fact the bestselling detective novel of the nineteenth century was written by a Kiwi - THE MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB (1886) by Fergus Hume, which outsold the likes of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel A STUDY IN SCARLET at the time. And of course there's Dame Ngaio, who our local crime award honour - one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction (alongside Christie, Sayers, and Allingham). But it certainly seems to be going through a 'boom' in the past decade or more. 

This year's longlist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel is a showcase of that, with three past Ngaios winners joined by several past finalists and longlistees and five first-time entrants - four of whom are debut novelists. 

I thought I'd take this chance to introduce you to the longlisted authors and books - some of whom you may be familiar with, there's some international bestsellers and award-winners among them, while others will be new. 

Angelique Kasmara is an Auckland author who was born in Indonesia. Her debut novel ISOBAR PRECINCT is an audacious tale set in a vivid, grimy inner-city Auckland where a tattoo artist gets entangled with a teen runaway, a married cop, a murder in a downtown Auckland cemetery, and a covert clinical trial targeting rough sleepers. 

Ben Sanders is an Auckland author whose first crime was published when he was 21 and studying engineering at university. He is a multiple-time finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Awards. His seventh novel THE DEVILS YOU KNOW features Vincent, a middle-aged former military operative trying to eschew guns and death for a life of surfing and high-end security for a supermarket boss in California. But his new boss has some secrets ... 

DV Bishop is an experienced Kiwi storyteller living in Scotland whose resume ranges across comic book writing and editing (Judge Dredd, 2000 AD), screenplays, BBC radio dramas, and Dr Who novels. His first historical mystery, CITY OF VENGEANCE, introduces Cesare Aldo, an officer of Renaissance Florence's most feared criminal court who must investigate the killing of a Jewish moneylender and prevent a coup while keeping his own dangerous secrets. 

Jacqueline Bublitz is an author who shares her time between Melbourne and her hometown of New Plymouth. Her debut novel BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME was rejected by 49 agents and has recently won the ABIA General Fiction Award in Australia and been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. It flips the script on 'jogger discovers a dead body in a park' with her story following the jogger and the victim rather than the cops investigating the crime. 

JP Pomare is a Māori storyteller (Ngā Puhi) who grew up in Rotorua and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. He won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel in 2019 for CALL ME EVIE, and is a three-time Ngaios finalist. THE LAST GUESTS is a psychological thriller about a young couple who decide to rent out their inherited lake house, only for strange things to start happening, deadly things. But the couple have been keeping their own secrets too. 

Kirsten McDougall is an award-winning Wellington storyteller whose previous work has been longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and a finalist for the Ngaios. SHE'S A KILLER is a near-future climate thriller about thirtysomething Alice, a brilliant yet stubborn slacker who is drawn into radical action as the world is in crisis and New Zealand has become divided and reshaped by an influx of privileged immigrant 'wealthugees'. 

Lizzie Harwood is an Auckland author who grew up on Great Barrier Island and lived overseas (primarily Paris) for two decades. Her debut novel POLAROID NIGHTS is set against the nightlife of 1990s Auckland, and as an unpublished manuscript won the inaugural NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize for 'new writing with a unique and original vision'. When Betty's ex is murdered and left in her bed, she hits the bar world to uncover who did it. 

Mark Wightman is an Edinburgh-born New Zealand citizen who grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore. His debut novel WAKING THE TIGER is a murder mystery set in 1939 Singapore where Inspector Maximo Betancourt investigates the murder of a young Japanese woman found dead on the dockside. Mark's debut was also shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year and the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. 

Nalini Singh is a Fiji-born West Auckland author. Over the past 20 years she's become globally renowned as a Queen of Paranormal Romance, writing many New York Times bestsellers. QUIET IN HER BONES is Nalini's second crime novel. When the body of socialite Nina Rai is found ten years after her disappearance, her son Aarav launches his own investigation. But gaps in his memory and suspicious neighbours mean he can't trust anyone, even himself. 

Nikki Crutchley is a Cambridge author and two-time past Ngaios finalist. Her fourth novel TO THE SEA is a psychological thriller about a family living on Iluka, an idyllic coastal plantation that seems like paradise but has a violent past. Iluka is the only home that teenager Ana has ever known, but when a stranger arrives she must make a life-changing choice between protecting all she loves or uncovering the truth. 

Paul Cleave is a Christchurch author and three-time Ngaio Marsh Award winner. Paul's thrillers have been shortlisted for the Edgar and Barry Awards in the United States, and won the Saint-Maur book festival's crime novel of the year award in France. In THE QUIET PEOPLE, husband-and-wife crime writers Cameron and Lisa Murdoch's lives are upturned when their son goes missing and the media, public, and police view them as suspects not victims. 

RWR McDonald is a Melbourne based author who grew up on a sheep and deer farm in Otago. His debut THE NANCYS won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel in 2020. This sequel sees unlikely investigative trio of Tippy Chan, a 12-year old girl grieving her father's death, and her Uncle Pike from Sydney and his fashionista boyfriend Devon - 'the Nancys' - attempt to uncover the truth behind a deadly explosion in small-town Riverstone. 

Phew, so there you go. Plenty of enticing reads there. Kiwi crime writing, or 'yeahnoir' as it's called (a play on the famed Kiwi saying 'yeah, nah') is going from strength to strength. The finalists for the 2022 Ngaio Marsh Awards - in both the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories - will be announced in early August, with the finalists celebrated and the winners named at a special event in September in Christchurch, the hometown of Dame Ngaio. 

Until next time. Ka kite anō. 

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 

Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei

(Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain)

A view across to Aoraki/Mt Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand


  1. Craig, you are AWE MAZING. You do honor to every writer whose work you describe through your uncanny, clear grasp and expression of the essence of their work. Congratulations to all!