Ned Kelly Awards 2012: The Winners Are…

We’re a bit late with the announcement this year but have finally caught up with the news (thanks twitter) of the winners of this year’s Ned Kelly Awards which were handed out at a ceremony at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival yesterday. As neither of your Fair Dinkum correspondents has read any of the winning books there’s not a lot else to do but provide the names of the winners (in red).


Publisher’s blurb for PIG BOY 

On Damon Styles’s eighteenth birthday, he is expelled from school. But it’s what happens afterwards that changes everything.

Now Damon must come up with a plan. It’s the only way he can think straight. First, get his firearms licence. Then, see if the Pigman will give him a job – pig hunting will teach Damon what he needs to know. And he’d better get a lock for his wardrobe so his mother won’t find what he’s hiding.

Damon’s taking matters into his own hands – but so is the town of Strathven.

A confronting, powerful story for young adults in the vein of J.C. Burke’s CBCA award-winner The Story of Tom Brennan.


  • Claire Corbett, WHEN WE HAVE WINGS
  • Peter Twohig, THE CARTOGRAPHER

Publisher’s blurb for THE CARTOGRAPHER

Melbourne, 1959. An 11-year-old boy witnesses a murder as he spies through the window of a strange house. God, whom he no longer counts as a friend, obviously has a pretty screwed-up sense of humour: just one year before, the boy had looked on helplessly as his twin brother, Tom, suffered a violent death.

Now, having been seen by the angry murderer, he is a kid on the run. With only a shady grandfather, a professional standover man and an incongruous local couple as adult mentors, he takes refuge in the dark drains and grimy tunnels beneath the city, transforming himself into a series of superheroes and creating a rather unreliable map to plot out places where he is unlikely to cross paths with the bogeyman.

A bold, captivating and outrageously funny novel about a boy who refuses to give in and the numerous shifty, dodgy and downright malicious bastards he has to contend with on his grand adventure of loss and discovery, THE CARTOGRAPHER is an astounding, fresh and unforgettably poignant novel you′d be a mug to miss!


  • Eamonn Duff, SINS OF THE FATHER
  • Michael Duffy, CALL ME CRUEL
  • Liz Porter, COLD CASE FILE

Publisher’s blurb for SINS OF THE FATHER

A reckless father, his dark past, an Adelaide drug trafficker and the Gold Coast beauty school dropout who kept her mouth shut. This is the explosive untold story of Schapelle Corby and how she took the rap for her father’s drug syndicate.

The result of a three year investigation, Sins of the Father returns to the beginning of Australia’s most famous drug case, to a time when nobody had ever heard the name Schapelle Corby. Finally, the missing pieces of the jigsaw fall into place as we are led, step by step, through the important weeks, days and hours leading up to her dramatic arrest.

Shedding new light on her long-held claims of innocence, this is the book Schapelle’s army of supporters do not want you to read.

Twitter didn’t seem to know who’d won the short story award but it did remind me that long-time Australian crime writer Gabrielle Lord was recognised at last night’s ceremony with a lifetime achievement award. Lord’s first standalone crime novel was 1980’s FORTRESS (which I featured in a post at my other blog a couple of years ago) and she has since written many other standalone novels as well as two short crime series. Most recently she released a series of 12 thrillers for young adults called Conspiracy 365. A new book was released each month of 2010. Gabrielle Lord is due to release a new crime novel for adults, DEATH BY BEAUTY, next month.

Congratulations to all the winners.


Review: GHOST MONEY by Andrew Nette

Max Quinlan is an Australian ex-cop who has somewhat haphazardly fallen into the work of of locating missing persons. To that end he arrives in Phnom Penh on the trail of businessman Charles Avery whose sister has hired Max to find her brother. With Avery proving elusive Max teams up with an Australian journalist and his Cambodian translator to track Avery through the underbelly of the city and beyond.

As you might expect of good noir fiction Max is a troubled soul, having had a somewhat desultory upbringing after being orphaned as a young boy. He doesn’t quite belong anywhere given he looks Asian but has only ever lived in Australia and has now lost the only job he ever wanted. But he is not, thankfully, a walking stereotype of the genre (there is no alcoholism or long-suffering ex wife in sight) and as this book progresses he starts to learn some things about himself as he searches for a redemption of sorts. He contrasts nicely with the Heng Sarin, the translator working for the journalist Max teams up with. Sarin is a survivor – of the Killing Fields, refugee camps and life in general but he is pragmatic and surprisingly free of the bitterness a person in his circumstances would be entitled to feel. Nette also uses Sarin and other key characters in the book to, through their personal histories, show us the history of the country in an engaging way.

Writers who are not native inhabitants of the setting they depict can have a tough time delivering an authentic atmosphere but that has not been a problem for Nette who has created a truly enveloping sense of time and place. Partly this is because he lived and worked as a journalist in South East Asia, including Cambodia, for a good portion of the 90’s and partly because he has chosen to tell the kind of story that suits an ex pat’s observations. It is the story of an outsider – an Australian man with Vietnamese heritage – who lands in a small, crowded country bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam which seems to have acted as the spoils of war for half the world’s major powers over the years and was, in the 1990’s, only just beginning to recover from one of the deadliest periods of civil war and occupation in global history. Nette has captured this richness in vivid detail, showing the myriad kinds of survivor such a history produces, the multiple forms of foreigners either trying to make a buck or provide well-meaning, if occasionally misguided or even patronising, assistance such a place attracts and displaying the complex social and physical environment that must inevitably result from successive reigns of occupation and brutality. In Nette’s Cambodia there is beauty and ugliness, the corrupt and their victims and you never know which will be waiting for you on the next page.

I’m never sure that I really like, or entirely understand, noir fiction because endless darkness does not, in itself, appeal. But when I am carried along by a story made unpredictable because in it there is some remote hope that happiness, or at least an absence of perpetual despair, might be around the corner at least for some minor character or other, I wonder if I might not be a fan after all. Because when the grimness, the violence, the hopelessness and despair that are the hallmarks of the genre serve a genuine storytelling purpose, as they do here, I become totally absorbed in a way that rarely happens when reading other books. GHOST MONEY is not for those wary of violence but there is no element of gratuitousness here: the violence is as much a part of life as breathing in this environment and, unsettlingly, it doesn’t feel like fiction.

GHOST MONEY packs a lot of action into its admirably compact package. It really doesn’t let up from the moment Max discovers the body of his assignment’s business partner on the first page. He and his newly made Cambodian colleague encounter mercenaries, a deluded saviour, official and unofficial spies and a myriad of former and current soldiers as they follow Avery’s trail across the country. At times you forget it’s a crime novel, but only because it’s also a fascinating tale of a time of chaos and the people who survive it.

Andrew Nette is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia, with a fascination for crime fiction and film, obscure pulp novels and all things Asian.

He lived in Southeast Asia for six years in the nineties, based in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During that time he worked as a journalist, and as a communications consultant for the United Nations and a number of non-government organisations.

He has since travelled frequently in Asia and lived in Phnom Penh with his family for a year in 2008, where he wrote for the international news wire, Inter Press Service, and worked on a European television documentary on the international tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

Andrew is also one of the founders of Crime Factory Publications, a Melbourne-based small press specialising in crime fiction, and helps edit Crime Factory, its on-line magazine, which appears four times a year. He is also one of the editors of Crime Factory Publication’s second book, Crime Factory: Hard Labour, an anthology of short Australian crime fiction, due for release later in 2012.

My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Snubnose Press [2012]
Length: 234 pages
Format: eBook (ePub)
Source: provided by the author for review
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Review: SILENT FEAR by Katherine Howell

The reason I imagine it’s hard to balance writing a ripper of a plot with developing at least some of your characters in enough depth to make them interesting is that a lot of books don’t achieve it. Surely if it were an easy task then more books would be like SILENT FEAR which balances these two elements perfectly.

The story is full of genuine surprises starting with paramedic Holly Garland’s attendance at what is for her a routine emergency at a suburban Sydney park. A young man, Paul Fowler, has collapsed and while his friends look on in confusion two bystanders have started CPR. Holly’s first surprise is that one of the man’s friends is her own brother whom she has not spoken to in 12 years. Her second is that when she takes over attempts to resuscitate the young man, thought to have collapsed from heat stroke or a heart attack, she discovers what looks like a bullet hole in the back of his head. These are merely the twists occurring in the first few pages of the book and they really don’t let up until the very end.

The main Detective assigned to the case is Ella Marconi who will be familiar to readers of Howell’s four previous novels in the series. She is an intelligent and determined policewoman and I particularly like the way she is depicted as having an almost physical need to get to the bottom of each case. Detecting is not purely an intellectual exercise for Ella: she needs to be on the move – talking, observing, driving etc. She draws on her body’s physical reactions to aspects of the job in a way that makes her obsession with the job quite believable, and something I’m a little envious of.

Here she and her fellow officers have to trawl through Fowler’s life to find motivation for the crime. His estranged wife, boss and friends are all suspects until evidence and witness statements start to enable the police to focus on particular individuals. As they follow the painstakingly slow procedural steps readers are able to build up a picture of the dead man and his friends. Even minor characters, such as wheelchair-bound Mary who is a star witness or the obnoxious detective assigned to Ella’s squad due to his connections, are nicely drawn and add a layer of natural credibility to the overall story. Holly Garland is a fantastic character too. She is terrified that her brother’s reappearance in her life will unravel the world she has created for herself since she escaped an unfortunate childhood and we really do get a sense of her fear long before we learn what secrets she is desperate to keep.

SILENT FEAR is a perfectly paced book, offering suspense and intrigue which is made more believable than many thrillers by being set in  an ordinary suburban life that most readers will recognise, even if they’ve never visited Sydney in the middle of a blistering Australian summer. Howell’s fictional crimes are not the kind that happen to other, far away people not like us; they are the kind that you can imagine happening right next door. Or even closer to home than that.

I have also reviewed Katherine Howell’s earlier novels VIOLENT EXPOSURE and COLD JUSTICE

Kerrie has reviewed SILENT FEAR earlier this year

This is the 11th book I have read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan [2012]
ISBN: 9781742610726
Length: 402 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought it
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The 2012 Davitt Awards – Shortlist

Bookseller & Publisher reports today that the shortlists for this year’s Davitt Awards, presented by Sisters in Crime Australia for crime books written by Australian women, have been announced.

The shortlisted titles in the Adult fiction category are:

Adult fiction

Having read only half of the shortlisted novels I’m probably not qualified to pass comment on which of these should win the award but of those I have read I would vote for Sulari Gentill’s A DECLINE IN PROPHETS but I will try to read the remaining titles before the awards are announce on 1 September.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors.

Review: SAY YOU’RE SORRY, Michael Robotham

Synopsis (from Publisher)

The chilling new psychological thriller – a truly gripping read from one of the most brilliant crime authors of today

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago.

When Piper and her friend Tash disappeared, there was a huge police
search, but they were never found. Now Tash, reaching breaking point at
the abuse their captor has inflicted on them, has escaped, promising to
come back for Piper.

Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and his stalwart companion,
ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, force the police to re-open the case after Joe is
called in to assess the possible killer of a couple in their own home
and finds a connection to the missing girls. But they are racing against
time to save Piper from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted

My Take

The Bingham Girls, Piper Hadley and Tash McBain, are 15 years old when they go missing.  They have been best friends for years but Tash is a troubled adolescent and has been told not to return to school. Every one assumes that the girls have gone off to London as they said they would, or at least that’s what Tash said.

Months pass and the search is scaled back. They have gone without trace. The bad things are forgotten and both families paint their daughters in glowing colours.

Three years later and a body is found frozen in a lake and DCI Drury calls in Joe O’Loughlin to investigate a case where a husband and wife have been killed and burnt in a fire at the farmhouse where Tash McBain used to live. A suspect is in custody, a troubled young man who can hear voices and
claims that he saw a girl that night being chased by a snowman. Drury hopes that Joe, by going over the Bingham Girls case from the very beginning, may pick up on clues the original team missed.

For Joe this is a particularly sensitive case because when they disappeared the girls were the same age that his own daughter Charlie is now. Both Piper and Tash had problems at home, separated or unhappy parents, and you can feel the author exploring the issues that surround female adolescence.

The structure of the novel appears to be straightforward but is very clever. Piper Hadley likes writing, but she runs out of paper so there are excerpts from her “mental” journal interposed between chapters describing the findings and events in the investigation that Joe and Vincent Ruiz are carrying out.

As always, a very readable novel, with some heart stopping moments. #8 in the O’Loughlin/Ruiz series. This duo complement each other so well.

My rating: 4.8

Other reviews of Robotham titles





Check if Michael Robotham is touring near you. He will also be at MWF and at Bouchercon in Cleveland later in the year.

Short Story Prizes A-Plenty

If you’re an Australian woman you have until the end of this month to enter Sisters in Crime Australia‘s Crime & Mystery Short Story Competition. In its 19th year there are two new award categories including a total of $1500 worth of prizes being sponsored by Melbourne’s famous Athenaeum Library for the best short story containing the words “body in the library”! The complete list of categories is

  • HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS 1st Prize: $1000 (plus the coveted Scarlet Stiletto trophy)
  • KILL CITY 2nd Prize: $400
  • THE CATE KENNEDY 3rd Prize: $350
  • ALLEN & UNWIN Young Writer’s Award: $500
  • ATHENAEUM LIBRARY Body in the Library Award: $1000, Runner-up: $500
  • THE KERRY GREENWOOD, Malice Domestic Award: $500
  • THE CLAN DESTINE PRESS, Cross-genre Award: $300
  • THE CATHERINE LEPPERT, Best Environmental Theme Award: $250
  • BENN’S BOOKS Best Investigative Story Award: $200 voucher
  • SCRIPTWORKS Great Film Idea Award: $200
  • PULP FICTION Funniest Crime Award: $150 voucher

Unlike other English-language markets Australia does not have a strong tradition of short story writing so it is terrific to see this competition still going strong and gaining new sponsors. For the writers among you here is the entry form which you must submit, along with your story, by 31 August 2012. For the readers you might like to check out the two collections of previous winners and entrants to the competition.

Ned Kelly Awards 2012 – The Shortlist

The shortlists for three categories of the Ned Kelly Awards were announced earlier today and are repeated below. As you’ll see we’ve only reviewed one of these here at Fair Dinkum HQ so I suppose we have some catching up to do (though of the three novels in the best fiction category one is a YA title and the other is, according to the three people I polled who have read it, not something that would ordinarily be considered crime fiction so I don’t feel too bad that they didn’t make it to my radar). The winners will be announced at the end of this month (I think)


    Liz Porter, Cold Case File, Pan Macmillan

    Michael Duffy, Call Me Cruel, Allen & Unwin

    Eamonn Duff, Sins of the Father, Allen &Unwin


    Kim Westwood, The Courier’s New Bicycle, Harper Collins

    Peter Twohig, The Cartographer, Harper Collins

    Claire Corbett, When We Have Wings, Allen & Unwin