It’s crime fiction awards season again here in Australia (and elsewhere) and while I am not participating as a judge in any way this year I can’t help but ponder the shortlists. I’ve tried not to be too obvious about my likes and dislikes below because I’ve been on a couple of panels and I know how much thought and effort the judges put into their selections and they don’t need me ranting about what is, ultimately, a bloody subjective activity. However I have indicated by way of an asterisk which books I personally was oscillating between before making my own choices.
The 17th Davitt Awards for crime writing by women will be announced tonight in Melbourne by Sisters in Crime Australia. Shortlists in five categories offer a diverse array of genres, styles and audiences catered for. In the best adult fiction category there are 5 contenders
- Tania Chandler – DEAD IN THE WATER – an exploration of the tragedy-packed life of a young mother living in rural Victoria which has a great sense of place though, for me, the plotting fell a bit flat
- *Cath Ferla – GHOST GIRLS – A scarily plausible yarn in which a Melbourne teacher investigates a series of disturbing incidents involving the foreign students on her campus.
- *Jane Harper – THE DRY – An absolutely gripping story of heat, secrecy and desperation played out in small town Australia
- *Melina Marchetta – TELL THE TRUTH SHAME THE DEVIL – A skillfully woven romp of international intrigue and hidden pasts
- *Holly Throsby – GOODWOOD – A beautiful, almost lyrical depiction of the layers of secrecy that can be found even in small, seemingly ordinary towns.
I am really quite torn about which one of these I would select as the winner; there is really only one I could easily cross of my personal list. If pressed on the others though I would opt – by the merest of margins – for Jane Harper’s THE DRY. It embodies everything I look for in a crime novel and the fact I can still vividly remember so many details of it more than a year after reading is testament to its quality.
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Next Saturday night it is the turn of the Ned Kelly Awards to be announced by the Australian Crime Writers Association. Once again there are multiple categories of shortlisted novels offering yet more diversity for eager crime fans. In the Best Fiction Category there are 6 nominees and I find it interesting that though four are by women writers there is no overlap between this list and the previous one.
- Candice Fox – CRIMSON LAKE – An action-packed thriller set in far north Queensland where a man who is alleged to have raped and nearly murdered a child joins forces with a local PI to investigate the disappearance of a well-known author
- Wendy James – THE GOLDEN CHILD – A thoroughly modern tale of bullying teenagers taking things too far which I have to admit I wanted to like more than I actually did
- *Emily Maguire – AN ISOLATED INCIDENT – A genre-subversing book about the aftermath of sudden death and the people who are left behind to grieve
- *Adrian McKinty – POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY – Another stellar installment of the chaotic adventures of Sean Duffy this book uses dark humour to muse about murder, long-hidden secrets, the inevitability of ageing and how far true friends will go for each other
- *Jock Serong – THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET – A beautifully written, brutally honest book about brotherhood, bastardry and cricket which gets the balance of aching sadness and dark humour just right
- Ann Turner – OUT OF THE ICE – An international thriller which depicts Antarctic living in a way I had not come across before
For me this is a slightly easier choice as there are only three from the list that I would struggle to choose between. In the end though I would have to go with Jock Serong’s THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET which I have been recommending to everyone who’s ever had a brother, been a brother or knows that the word googly has nothing to do with internet searching.