Ned Kelly Award Shortlists 2020

The Best in Australian Crime Fiction

With the recent emergence of a number of top quality crime fiction writers in Australia, the Ned Kelly Awards deserve more than a cursory look. I only recognize two authors who have been published here in the States so I have asked our Australian correspondent Jeff Popple to comment on any others with whom he is familiar.

Best Crime Novel

DEATH OF A TYPOGRAPHER by Nick Gadd, a ‘quirky and original story which is funny and very Melbourne’
THE STRANGERS WE KNOW by Pip Drysdale, a ‘conspiratorial well-paced read that keeps you glued to the page’ Jeff Popple: “Pip Drysdale’s THE STRANGERS WE KNOW is a modern, pacy romantic suspense novel ideal for the Netflix generation. Full of good twists, witty asides and an appealing central character it is a good fun read with some astute observations.”


THE SCHOLAR by Dervla McTiernan, ‘an elegant and tightly constructed read with depth and excellent characterisation’ George Easter: “Not quite as good as the superb Barry Award-winning THE RUIN, but a very enjoyable read and mystery puzzle nevertheless.”


THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW by Christian White, is ‘cleverly plotted with a major plot twist threaded extremely well through the action’ George Easter: I read his first novel THE NOWHERE CHILD and gave it a B+ but thought the characters a little flat.”


RIVER OF SALT by Dave Warner, is an ‘evocative tale about the Australian surf scene in the early 1960s with compelling characters’ Jeff Popple: “Former rock and roller Dave Warner has produced another distinctive Australian crime novel that combines evocative descriptions with a tense, tough plot. Set in the 1960s it features a displaced former Philadelphia hitman who is forced to solve a murder in order to protect his piece of paradise on the Australian coast. A terrific read.”


TRUE WEST by David Whish-Wilson, is a book with ‘a distinct sense of time and place where you can almost smell the outback’. Jeff Popple: “This is a tough, gritty novel set in Perth in the late 1980s. Full of sharp political observations and a good sense of pace, it offers a bleak view of the under side of Australian society. A gripping novel that builds to a tense climax.”

[Editor’s comment: Jeff, you talked me into getting a copy of RIVER OF SALT by Dave Warner. I’m a sucker for a plot like that.]

Best Debut Crime Novel

EIGHT LIVES by Susan Hurley, an ‘original medical thriller viewed through the lens of the migrant experience’


WHERE THE TRUTH LIES by Karina Kilmore, is ‘a great read with an interesting new setting and good twists’ Jeff Popple: “Karina’s debut novel is a complex, credible thriller that takes a sharp look at corruption in big business and the unions, and the declining power of newspapers. An interesting, flawed central character and a nicely cynical conclusion.”


LAPSE by Sarah Thornton, is ‘atmospheric rural crime with well-drawn characters’ Jeff Popple: “LAPSE is a very well written and compelling crime novel set in a vividly described small country town. It weaves its way through some good twists to a very emotional climax that avoids simple solutions. It is also one of the few Australian crime novels to tackle the difficult issue of racial tension in the outback.”


THE NANCYS by RWR McDonald, is ‘full of quirky characters and pays homage to Nancy Drew’ Jeff Popple: “This quirky, fun novel is seen through the eyes of an eleven year old ‘want to be’ Nancy Drew school girl who is trying to track down the killer of her teacher. Witty and enjoyable.”


SIX MINUTES by Petronella McGovern, considers ‘the nightmare scenario of a missing child’ Jeff Popple: “Petronella McGovern’s accomplished debut uses the emotional drama of a missing child to explore issues about the evils of social media and the irresponsibility of the press. It is a well crafted novel that leads the reader through some good twists to a pulse-racing finale.”

PRESENT TENSE by Natalie Conyer, ‘has a great setting, complex taut plot and flawed characters’ Jeff Popple: “I have not read this one, but people I know are very complimentary about this South African set police mystery.”

There is a new category this year

Best International Crime Fiction

THE NIGHT FIRE BY Michael Connelly
THE LAST WIDOW by Karin Slaughter
THE CHAIN by Irish author Adrian McKinty
CRUEL ACTS by Irish author Jane Casey