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BooksAugust 14, 2017

Books about Teina Pora, Mark Lundy and martyred Dunedin priests feature in Kiwi crime writing awards

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Exclusive: a book by Steve Braunias, a memoir by the woman who was left for dead by Tony Dixon, and a former TV reporter’s investigation into the wrongful conviction of Teina Pora all feature in the shortlist for this year’s crime writing awards.

Ye olde Spinoff Review of Books can exclusively reveal the finalists of the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards. The annual awards recognise the best in New Zealand crime writing, and this year’s shortlist includes novels about home invasions and martyred Dunedin priests, and true-crime books about Teina Pora, Mark Lundy and Tony Dixon.

The shortlist was drawn from 54 books. “None of our previous winners were in the running,” said awards convenor Craig Sisterson, who helped found the awards in 2010. “In fact 18 of the 19 different Kiwi authors who’ve been finalists for our awards in the past were missing.”

He did not say whether they were presumed dead in mysterious circumstances.

The judges included crime writers from Iceland, Scotland, the US and Britain, as well as novelist Vanda Symon from Dunedin, and Auckland litigator Darise Bennington.

The winners will be announced on October 28, at a WORD Christchurch event.


Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan, $38)

A stark look behind the scenes at the prelude and aftermath of Tony Dixon’s Samurai sword attack. “A shocking, moving, but ultimately uplifting account of a woman who endured so much yet came through it with her spirit remarkably intact,” raved the judges.

The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins, $27.99)

An examination of the brutal and banal realities of the criminal justice system, told via 12 tales including the trial of Mark Lundy. Judges: “The author’s unique way of finding dark humour in tragic circumstances gave a new perspective to crimes that have been written about incessantly by others.”

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP, $39.99)

A whodunit turned whydunnit from 1880s New Zealand, when a young woman was found near Opunake with her throat slit.

Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing, $40)

The story behind how an Otago Boys High old boy wrote the bestselling crime novel of the 19th century.

In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books, $34.99)

The Teina Pora story. “A scintillating, expertly balanced account of one of the most grievous miscarriages of justice in New Zealand history,” huzzahed the judges. That huzzah makes it the favourite to win, possibly.


Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins, $36.99)

A private eye and a reporter get entangled in deadly agendas and union politics as the 1951 waterfront dispute rages. “Cullinane’s characters fizz and sparkle in this historical thriller whose cracking dialogue and ceaseless pace make it feel utterly current,” ruled ye judges.

Pancake Money by Finn Bell (ebook, US$4)

Detectives Bobby Ress and Pollo Latu are put to the test when someone starts martyring Dunedin priests in the most medieval of ways.

Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre, $19.95)

A man suffering memory loss, a grieving daughter, and disgraced cop are plunged into a global conspiracy.

Marshall’s Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)

The hero: ex-NYPD undercover cop Marshall Grade.

The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby, $22.99)

A survivor and a perpetrator of a brutal home invasion seek to come to terms with their altered lives after the news cycle moves on. Judges: “A harrowing yet touching story.” The outside favourite to win, possibly.


Dead Lemons by Finn Bell (ebook, US$4)

A wheelchair-bound man in Riverton is obsessively drawn into a dangerous search for a father and daughter who went missing years before.

Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins, $36.99)

Remarkably similar to book of the same moniker in the Best Crime Novel category. The hot favourite to win, possibly.

The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press, $34.99)

Detective Sergeant Malcolm Buchan, the new head of CIB in the Southern Lakes, faces moral and professional challenges when the body of a woman he recognises is pulled from an icy canyon.

The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing, $30)

Newly promoted Detective Sergeant Nick Knight grapples with personal demons while trying to solve the puzzling murder of a teenage girl at a school camp in the Waitakere Ranges.

 Days Are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing, $30)

Paediatrician Claire Bowerman’s past is uncorked when she hits the headlines after a family refuses medical treatment for their sick kid.

Very many of these excellent crimes books are available at Unity Books.

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