I’m in the Spotlight*

The pandemic has interrupted a lot of things. But it hasn’t stopped the creation of some excellent crime fiction. This past year, for instance, saw the publication of some top-notch crime fiction from New Zealand. I should know; I’ve been proud and excited to serve on the panel for the Ngaio Marsh Awards for crime fiction.  What a privilege!  There are several categories, including Best Nonfiction, Best First Novel, and Best Kids’ Book. It was hard work to narrow down so many fine titles, but the lists of finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Awards have been announced. Just to give you a sense of what’s out there, here are the finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel:


 Nikki Crutchley – The Murder Club

The blurb:

A dead body. An anonymous letter. This is only the beginning. ‘Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’ When the

 first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck.Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye.Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever 

since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours. The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town of Lentford.


Brannavan Gnanalingam – Sprigs

The blurb:

It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya – a fifteen year old who barely belongs – watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying, Priya’s friends have evaporated and she isn’t sure what to do.

In the weeks after ‘the incident’ life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons.


Carl Nixon – The Tally Stick

The blurb:

After being in New Zealand for only five days, the English Chamberlain family vanished into thin air.

Thirty year later, the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child are discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived in the wilderness for four years. Where is the rest of the family?

Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tire tracks in the mud leading into an almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain. After being in New Zealand for only five days, the English Chamberlain family had vanished into thin air. The date was 4 April 1978. In 2010 the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child are discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of scored wood marking items of debt. How had he survived and then died? Where is the rest of the family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?


Charity Norman – The Secrets of Strangers

The blurb:

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London  café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage.

But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? 


J.P. Pomare – Tell Me Lies

The blurb:

Psychologist Margot Scott has a picture-perfect life: a nice house in the suburbs, a husband, two children and a successful career.  

On a warm spring morning Margot approaches one of her clients on a busy train platform. He is looking down at his phone, with his duffel bag in hand as the train approaches. That’s when she slams into his back and he falls in front of the train.

Margot’s clients all lie to her, but one lie cost her family and freedom.


See what I mean about how hard it is to choose? The winners will be announced on Saturday, 20 October.   Watch this space!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dragon’s Sunshine.


4 thoughts on “I’m in the Spotlight*

  1. Ooh, I’ve actually read one of them this time! The Secrets of Strangers, which I read because I’d heard her name from you from an earlier NZ award – can’t remember if she won or was just shortlisted, but that one, See You in September, is still sitting in my TBR, waiting patiently. The others look interesting – on the basis of the blurbs The Tally Stick appeals most, but I shall wait to see which one the esteemed judges select… 😀


    1. I hope you do get the time to read See You in September, FictionFan. Among other things, it’s a fascinating look at cults, and what draws people to them. And I think it’s well-written. There are some really fine choices on this year’s finalist list; it’s not going to be easy to choose a winner. I can say without speaking out of turn that The Tally Stick has a very strong sense of New Zealand. If/when you read it, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

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