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Best First Novel
or Best First Fiction ; or Best Debut Crime
Subcategory of Ned Kelly Awards for Crime Writing
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Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2022

winner y separately published work icon Banjawarn Joshua Kemp , Crawley : UWA Publishing , 2022 23605018 2022 single work novel

'Garreth Hoyle is a true crime writer whose destructive love affair with hallucinogenic drugs has sent him searching for ghosts in the unforgiving mallee desert of Western Australia. Heading north through Kalgoorlie, he attempts to score off old friends from his shearing days on Banjawarn Station. His journey takes an unexpected detour when he discovers an abandoned ten-year-old girl and decides to return her to her estranged father in Leonora, instead of alerting authorities. Together they begin the road trip from hell through the scorched heart of the state’s northern goldfields.

'Love, friendship and hope are often found in the strangest places, but forgiveness is never simple, and the past lies buried just beneath the blood red topsoil. The only question is whether Hoyle should uncover it, or run as fast as his legs can take him.

'Banjawarn is an unsettling debut from Josh Kemp. Echoing Cormac McCarthy’s haunting border trilogy and narrative vernacular that recalls the sparse lyricism of Randolph Stow and Tim Winton, this is a darkly funny novel that earns its place amongst the stable of Australian gothic literature.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2021

winner y separately published work icon The Second Son Loraine Peck , Melbourne : Penguin , 2021 20512001 2021 single work novel crime

'Duty always has a price.

'When Ivan Novak is shot dead putting out his garbage bins in Sydney’s west, his family wants revenge, especially his father Milan, a notorious crime boss. It’s a job for the second son, Ivan’s younger brother Johnny. But Johnny loves his wife Amy and their son Sasha. And she’s about to deliver her ultimatum: either the three of them escape this wave of killing or she’ll leave, taking Sasha.

'Torn between loyalty to his family and love for his wife, Johnny plans the heist of a lifetime and takes a huge risk. Is he prepared to pay the price? And what choice will Amy make?

'THE SECOND SON is a brilliant action-packed crime debut that creates a world where honour is everything, violence is its own language, and love means breaking all the rules.' (Publication summary)

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon Present Tense Natalie Conyer , Melbourne : Clan Destine Press , 2019 18343060 2019 single work novel detective

'What if justice isn't enough?

'Schalk Lourens got out his phone and started filming, something Pieterse taught him years ago. Keep a record. Do it yourself, boykie, every time. That way you can be sure. Cover your arse. Don't trust any of them.

'Schalk began with Pieterse himself, what was left of him.

'Cape Town, South Africa.

'Retired police chief Piet Pieterse has been murdered, necklaced in fact. A tyre placed round his neck, doused with petrol, set alight. An execution from the apartheid era and one generally confined to collaborators. Who would target Pieterse this way, and why now?

'Veteran copy Schalk Lourens is trying to forget the past. But Pieterse was his old boss and when Schalk is put on the case, he finds the past has a way of infecting the present.

'Meanwhile, it's an election year. People are pinning their hopes on charismatic ANC candidate Gideon Radebe but there's opposition and in this volatile country, unrest is never far from the surface.

'Schalk must tread a difficult path between the new regime and the old, between the personal and the professional, between justice and revenge.

'This investigation will change his life, and could alter his county's future.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon The Rúin Dervla McTiernan , Sydney South : HarperCollins Australia , 2018 12932996 2018 single work novel crime

'Galway 1993: Young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a scene he will never forget. Two silent, neglected children - fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack - are waiting for him at a crumbling country house. Upstairs, their mother lies dead.

'Twenty years later, a body surfaces in the icy black waters of the River Corrib. At first it looks like an open-and-shut case, but then doubt is cast on the investigation's findings - and the integrity of the police. Cormac is thrown back into the cold case that has haunted him his entire career - what links the two deaths, two decades apart? As he navigates his way through police politics and the ghosts of the past, Detective Reilly uncovers shocking secrets and finds himself questioning who among his colleagues he can trust.

'What really did happen in that house where he first met Maude and Jack? The Ruin draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can't - or won't.' (Publication Summary)

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon The Dark Lake Sarah Bailey , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2017 10894695 2017 single work novel thriller

'There were a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

'Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further, until I was completely, utterly under.

'A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

'But that's not all Gemma's trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths.

'The Dark Lake is an addictive crime thriller, a mesmerising account of one woman's descent into deceit and madness, and a stunning debut that is already causing a stir around the world.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

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