The scene of the crime moves to the country in Sisters in Crime’s 18th Davitt Awards

Sisters in Crime has announced a shortlist of 27 books for its 18th Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women – six adult novels, three Young Adult (YA) novels, four children’s novels, four non-fiction books and 10 debut books.

All bar three of the books contending for the best debut book are also battling it out in other award categories.

Jacqui Horwood, the Davitt Judges wrangler, said that this year the scene of the crime had definitely moved to the country.

“Crime is no longer just stalking the mean streets of our cities. It is now making its way along the dusty roads of rural Australia,” she said.

“Five out of the six shortlisted adult novels and two out of the three Young Adult novels are set in either country towns or the bush. This scene of the crime has so much to offer – and I’m not just referring to the crocodiles that lurk in Crimson Lake, Candice Fox’s fictional FNQ community…”

Horwood said that the eye-watering task of reading the record 101 books in contention was counterbalanced by the high standard of so many of the books.

“At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, Australian women’s crime writing just gets better and better every year – and Davitt judges aren’t the only ones who think so,” she said.

“Sarah Krasnostein, for instance, won both the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature and the $25,00 non-fiction award for her debut book, The Trauma Cleaner, plus the General Non-Fiction Book Award at the Australian Book Industry Awards.

“Previous multiple Davitt Award winner, Jane Harper, won the top UK crime accolade, the CWA Gold Dagger Award, for her debut novel, The Dry, last year and this year took out the British Book Awards Crime Thriller Book of the Year. Another multiple Davitt Award winner, Emma Viskic, has been longlisted in two categories for the 2018 UK CWA Awards for her debut novel, Resurrection Bay.”

Horwood said that the quality of non-fiction crime this year was impressive.

“This time round, the non-fiction books don’t just rehash media reports and court notes. They are thoughtful explorations of topics ranging from art fraud and paedophilia to the gruesome task of cleaning up crime scenes. Two feature remarkable women – Sandra Pankhurst (The Trauma Cleaner) and aviator, Jessie Miller (The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller),” she said.

The number of debut books – 40 out of 101 – was also notable, according to Horwood.

“More and more women are turning to crime – and for good reason. As a genre, crime offers multifold opportunities. Nothing comes close to matching its strong narrative traditions and ability to expose what is happening in society, whether contemporary or historical. So much of literary fiction has lost the plot –  literally, as well as figuratively,” she said.

For the first time this year, the Davitts were open to self-published books. Out of 19 entered, one made it to the short-list – No Limits by previous Davitt YA winner, Ellie Marney.

Danish crime writer Sissel-Jo Gazan (left) will present the Davitt Awards at a gala ceremony at Swinburne University at 6pm, Saturday 11 August, following a discussion about her life in crime with author Leigh Redhead.

Gazan will present six awards: Best Adult Crime Novel; Best Young Adult Crime Novel; Best Children’s Crime Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 500 members of Sisters in Crime Australia). Gazan’s visit to Australia is supported by the Danish Arts Foundation.

Bookings open on 9 July: https://www.sistersincrime.org.au/event/18th-davitt-awards-for-the-best-crime-books-by-australian-women/

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, author of Australia’s first mystery novel Force and Fraud (1865) and cost publishers nothing to enter. This year the Davitts are again sponsored by Swinburne University of Technology.https://www.sistersincrime.org.au/event/18th-davitt-awards-for-the-best-crime-books-by-australian-women/

The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached.

The judging panel for 2018 comprises Age literary columnist Jane Sullivan, YA expert Danielle Binks, forensic specialist Debbie Stephen, Sisters in Crime convenors Michaela Lobb and Pauline Meaney, and former convenor, librarian Jacqui Horwood.

Voting for the Readers’ Choice Davitt Award by Sisters in Crime members closes on 9 July. Only financial members can vote: https://davitt2018readerschoiceaward.eventbrite.com

Media comment: Jacqui Horwood 0449 703 503; jacqui.horwood@gmail.com

Information: www.sistersincrime.org.au

2018 Davitt Awards Short List

Adult crime novels (6)

Sarah Bailey, The Dark Lake (Allen & Unwin) Debut

Sara Foster, The Hidden Hours (Simon & Schuster)

Candice Fox, Crimson Lake (Penguin Random House)

Sulari Gentill, Crossing the Lines (Pantera Press)

Jane Harper, Force of Nature (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Emma Viskic, And Fire Came Down (Bonnier Publishing Australia)

Young Adult crime novels (3)

Ellie Marney, No Limits (Bearded Lady Press)

Sophie Masson, Jack of Spades (Eagle Books)

Vikki Wakefield, Ballad for a Mad Girl (Text Publishing) Debut

 Children’s crime novels (4)

Rebecca Johnson, Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1) (Penguin Random House) Debut

Rebecca McRitchie, Whimsy and Woe (HarperCollins Australia) Debut

Allison Rushby, The Turnkey (Walker Books Australia)

Ailsa Wild, Squishy Taylor and the Silver Suitcase (Hardie Grant Egmont)

 Non-fiction books (4)

Carol Baxter, The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder (Allen & Unwin)

Gabriella Coslovich, Whiteley on Trial (Melbourne University Press) Debut

Sarah Krasnostein, The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (Text Publishing) Debut

Louise Milligan, Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell (Melbourne University Press) Debut

Debut (10)

Sarah Bailey, The Dark Lake (Allen & Unwin)

Gabriella Coslovich, Whiteley on Trial (Melbourne University Press)

Megan Goldin, The Girl from Keller’s Way (Penguin Random House)

Rebecca Johnson, Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1) (Penguin Random House)

Sarah Krasnostein, The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (Text Publishing)  

Rebecca McRitchie, Whimsy and Woe (HarperCollins Australia)

Louise Milligan, Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell (Melbourne University Press)  

Sarah Schmidt, See What I Have Done (Hachette Australia)  

Pip Smith, Half Wild (Allen & Unwin)

Vikki Wakefield, Ballad for a Mad Girl (Text Publishing)