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Finalists announced for Ngaio Marsh Crime Awards

For immediate release

18 October 2013

Three old hands and one newcomer on the shortlist for The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel 2013.

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, presented in association with the Christchurch Writers’ Festival Trust, recognises excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery and thriller writing. It is awarded each year to the best novel published in the preceding year. Christchurch writer Dame Ngaio Marsh, whom the award is named after, was renowned worldwide as one of the four ‘Queens of Crime’ in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

The following four novels, all released in 2012, have been shortlisted for the 2013 award:

Death on Demand by Paul Thomas (Hachette NZ)

The Laughterhouse by Paul Cleave (Penguin)

Faceless by Vanda Symon (Penguin)

Little Sister by Julian Novitz (Random House).

"We are thrilled with the quality and diversity of the shortlisted books this year," says judging convenor Craig Sisterson. "Modern crime fiction is now a broad church, where talented authors raise questions and cast light on a variety of societal and other issues through the prism of an exciting, page-turning story. The four shortlisted books all demonstrate this well, each in their own way. It will be a tough call for the judges."

Julian Novitz is the surprise contender on the shortlist. Novitz has written one previous novel, Holocaust Tours, and one collection of short stories, My Real Life and Other Stories, which won Best First Book at the Montana Book Awards in 2005. Little Sister, a literary noir thriller, is Novitz’s first book to be considered a crime novel alongside the more traditional genre novels on the shortlist. The Listener praised Little Sister as follows: ‘It isn't hard to accustom oneself to taking things slowly when the tension is so expertly and satisfyingly drawn out. That's the mark of a fine psychological thriller, a standard Little Sister easily meets and surpasses.' Novitz currently lives in Melbourne.

This is the first time Paul Thomas has been shortlisted for the award. Death on Demand is the long-awaited fourth novel featuring detective Tito Ihaka. Craig Sisterson, judging convenor and editor of the Kiwi Crime blog, said of Death on Demand: “Thomas creates a delightful hyper-reality that is still believable, and puts the memorable and intriguing Ihaka – ‘unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane’ – front and centre far more than in the earlier trilogy. Older, and perhaps a shade wiser, Ihaka still gives readers that feeling of a time bomb waiting to detonate… Thomas dances us along a tightrope of intrigue, and it’s a heck of a fun ride.” Paul Thomas lives in Wellington.

2011 Ngaio Marsh Award winner Paul Cleave is one of our most internationally renowned crime writers. The Laughterhouse, his eighth novel, delivers Cleave’s trademark shocking crime and complex characters, set in Christchurch, his hometown. Publishers Weekly (USA) gave it a starred review, stating: “Piano wire–taut plotting, Tate’s heart-wrenching losses and forlorn hopes, and Cleave’s unusually perceptive gaze into the maw of a killer’s madness, make this a standout chapter in his detective’s rocky road to redemption.”

Vanda Symon has been shortlisted twice for her Sam Shepherd novels Containment and Bound. Faceless is her first standalone thriller, and critics have raved about it. Graham ‘Bookman’ Beattie, when reviewing on Radio New Zealand National, called it “stunningly-well written” but warned of its dark content: “This is probably the most powerful and ambitious writing the author has achieved… something of a cross between the gritty crime fiction of Christchurch author Paul Cleave and the horror of Stephen King.” Vanda lives in Dunedin.

The winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel 2013 will be announced on December 2, 2013.


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