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Best Debut
Subcategory of Davitt Award
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History

Originally awarded to novels only; later included debut non-fiction.

Winners

2020 winner y separately published work icon Eight Lives Susan Hurley , Mulgrave : Affirm Press , 2019 14974059 2019 single work novel thriller

'Former refugee David Tran becomes the Golden Boy of Australian medical research and invents a drug that could transform immunology. Eight volunteers are recruited for the first human trial, a crucial step on the path to global fame for David and windfall gains for his investors. But when David dies in baffling circumstances, motives are put under the microscope.

'With its origins in a real-life drug trial that ended in tragedy, Eight Lives is told from the perspectives of David's friends, family and business associates, who all played a role in his downfall.A smart, sophisticated thriller that explores power, class and prejudice, Eight Lives will keep you engrossed until the last page. '  (Publication summary)

2019 winner y separately published work icon Eggshell Skull Bri Lee , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2018 13717214 2018 single work autobiography

'EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must 'take their victim as they find them'. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim's weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

'But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his 'victim' as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

'Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge's associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

'This is the story of Bri's journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge's associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland -- where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she'd vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

'Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

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.

2017 winner y separately published work icon Ghost Girls Cath Ferla , South Melbourne : Echo Publishing , 2016 9159716 2016 single work novel crime

'Winter in Sydney. The city is brimming with foreign students. Sophie Sandilands takes a job teaching at an English language school. When one of her students leaps to her death it becomes clear that lurking within the psyche of this community is a deep sense of despair and alienation. When it is revealed that the dead woman on the pavement has stolen another’s identity, Sophie is drawn into the mystery.

'Unable to resist the investigative instincts that run in her blood, Sophie finds herself unravelling a sinister operation that is trawling the foreign student market for its victims. But as Sophie works on tracking down the criminals it becomes evident that someone has knowledge of her and the disappearances in her own past. Will Sophie solve the mystery before she too becomes a ghost?

'Ghost Girls richly evokes the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Sydney’s Chinatown, and imagines dark exploitative demands behind closed suburban doors.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2016 joint winner y separately published work icon Resurrection Bay Emma Viskic , South Melbourne : Echo Publishing , 2015 8683019 2015 single work novel crime

'Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside - watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.

'This gripping, original and fast-paced crime thriller is set between a big city and a small coastal town, Resurrection Bay, where Caleb is forced to confront painful memories. Caleb is a memorable protagonist who refuses to let his deafness limit his opportunities, or his participation in the investigation. But does his persistence border on stubbornness? And at what cost? As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2016 joint winner y separately published work icon Risk Fleur Ferris , Australia : Random House , 2015 8321789 2015 single work novel young adult

'Best friends Taylor and Sierra meet a hot guy in a chat room online. Both fall for Jacob's charms, but as usual, the more outgoing and vivacious Sierra overshadows Taylor and wins his attention. Taylor's devastated – Sierra already kissed Callum, Taylor's secret crush, over the summer holidays. Life's not fair, especially when Sierra's around.

'Moving quickly, Sierra sets up a date with Jacob on Friday after school. She asks Taylor and their friends to cover for her. Even though she's upset, Taylor is still Sierra's best friend and agrees to help. But Sierra abuses the favour and calls to say she's going to spend the night with her date. She doesn't come home all weekend, doesn't answer her phone and nobody's heard from her . . .

'Taylor is torn. She doesn't want to betray Sierra by telling her parents but at the same time she's concerned for her welfare. Finally, Callum convinces her to tell. The police are called and their worst fears are confirmed when Sierra's body is found miles from Melbourne a week later . . .

'Devastated, Taylor becomes obsessed with finding Sierra's killer. As clues emerge, Taylor races against time to try and save the predator's next victim.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2015 winner y separately published work icon Hades Candice Fox , North Sydney : Random House , 2014 6867696 2014 single work novel thriller crime (taught in 1 units)

'A dark, compelling and original thriller that will have you spellbound from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking climax. Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction.

'Hades Archer, the man they call the Lord of the Underworld, surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem – for a fee.

'Then one night a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants ‘lost'. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything...

'Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there's something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can't quite put his finger on.

'When the two detectives are called to the scene of an attempted drowning, they find a traumatised victim telling a story that's hard to believe - until the divers start bringing up bodies.

'Frank is now on the hunt for a very different kind of serial killer: one who offers the sick and dying hope at murderous cost. At first, his partner's sharp instincts come in handy. Soon, he's wondering if she's as dangerous as the man they hunt.' (Publisher's blurb)

2015 winner y separately published work icon Intruder Christine Bongers , North Sydney : Random House , 2014 6963675 2014 single work novel young adult

'If you like Fiona Wood, Cath Crowley or Jaclyn Moriarty, you'll love Christine Bongers' gripping new coming of age story, Intruder.

'I don't walk past the house next door. I wish the woman who lives in it was dead. Which makes it hard . . . because she was the one who came running when I screamed.

'Kat Jones is woken by an Intruder looming over her bed. She's saved by Edwina – the neighbour Kat believes betrayed her dying mother.

'Her dad issues an ultimatum. Either spend nights next door, or accept another Intruder in her life – Hercules, the world's ugliest guard dog. It's a no-brainer, even for dog-phobic Kat.

'When she meets adorkable Al at the dog park, finally Kat has someone to talk to, someone who cares.

'But the prowler isn't finished with Kat. To stop him, she needs Edwina's help . . . and what Kat learns could mend fences – or break her fragile family apart forever.' (Publication summary)

2014 winner y separately published work icon Burial Rites Hannah Kent , 2013 Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2013 Z1828606 2013 single work novel historical fiction (taught in 1 units)

'In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

'Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes's spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes's ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn't she?

'Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland's formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?' (Publisher's blurb)

2013 winner y separately published work icon Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute Maggie Groff , Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia , 2012 Z1845117 2012 single work novel

'When a secretive American cult moves to the Gold Coast, freelance journalist Scout Davis's investigative antennae start quivering. She sets out to expose the cult's lunatic beliefs and bizarre practices, but when she learns the identity of a recent recruit, her quest becomes personal. And dangerous.

'The cult isn't the only case on Scout's agenda. Someone is cutting up girls' underwear at an exclusive school and Scout agrees to look into it. And the sinister secret behind the vandalism is not nice. Not at all.

'But Scout has her secrets too. In the dead of night she sneaks out with an underground group of yarn bombers to decorate the locality with artworks. The next mission ticks all the right boxes - it's risky, difficult and extremely silly. However, not everyone is amused, and Scout has a sneaking suspicion that the local police sergeant, Rafe Kelly, is hot on her tail.

'Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute is frequently hilarious, always surprising, and delivered with a strong cast of charmingly eccentric characters.' (From the publisher's website.)

2012 winner y separately published work icon Beyond Fear Jaye Ford , North Sydney : Bantam Australia , 2011 Z1777804 2011 single work novel crime 'Imagine if your worst fears came true . . . again.

'At seventeen, Jodie Cramer survived a terrifying assault at the hands of three strangers. Her schoolmate Angie was not so lucky . . .

'Now thirty-five, Jodie is a teacher and mother of two - and her past is a horror she's buried deep. When she sets out for a weekend in the country with three friends, all she has in mind are a few laughs and a break from routine.

'However, unknown to the four women, their secluded cabin was once the focus of a police investigation and, like Jodie, holds a very dark secret . . .

'When Jodie finds evidence of prowlers at the cabin, she is convinced they are being watched, though none of her friends believe her. And after suffering flashbacks to the night of Angie's murder, she also starts to doubt her own sanity.

'Until two men come knocking at their door.' (From the publisher's website.)
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