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AN AUTHOR who is herself a mystery has scooped New Zealand’s first-ever crime fiction award. ‘Alix Bosco’, the crime writing pseudonym for a “successful writer in other media” was announced as the winner of the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, for her debut thriller Cut & Run, at the conclusion of the popular Whodunnit and Whowunnit? event in Christchurch on Tuesday 30 November 2010. The award was accepted on Bosco’s behalf by Louise Crisp from Penguin New Zealand, Bosco's publisher.
“Cut & Run is a great page-turning thriller, filled with characters of depth and complexity, set right here in New Zealand,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It was a tough decision for the judges, given the high quality of the finalists, but Bosco’s debut is a worthy winner of the first-ever Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, which recognises the best of our contemporary crime writers, while also honouring the memory of one of our country’s true literary legends, who we have at times overlooked or underappreciated in the past.”
Cut & Run centres on Auckland-based heroine Anna Markunas, a middle-aged legal researcher who has been easing herself back into work after suffering several family tragedies. She finds herself investigating the circumstances of a celebrity murder for a defence lawyer friend, and puts herself in grave danger when she suspects a rugby star killed in the arms of a beautiful socialite wasn’t simply the victim of a drug deal gone wrong.
The judging panel said Cut & Run was “complex and suspenseful with fully rounded, unique characters” and had “scenes and incidents which are jaw-droppingly good”. “I was immediately struck by the likeability and realism of the central character,” said one international judge. “She is a breath of fresh air in the crime genre, being a middle-aged woman with both flaws and considerable intelligence. The book was beautifully paced. I found it hard to put down.” Bosco did a “superb job” integrating her heroine’s personal and domestic life into a compelling thriller, “a rare feat”, said another international judge.
John Dacres-Mannings, the nephew of Dame Ngaio Marsh, sent a message praising the establishment of New Zealand’s own crime fiction award, and congratulating everyone involved. “I congratulate all the finalists for what sounds to be a very high standard of detective story writing. I know that Dame Ngaio would be so proud of all the entrants, and to know that her name is associated with the award.”
Bosco won a distinctive handcrafted trophy designed and created by New Zealand sculptor and Unitec art lecturer Gina Ferguson, a selection of 22 Ngaio Marsh-related books from HarperCollins, and a cheque for $500 from the Christchurch Writers Festival Trust.
New Zealand television audiences may also soon be able to view Bosco’s award-winning story on screen, with Cut & Run having been optioned by Screenworks for production as a television mini-series. Chris Hampson of Screenworks confirmed that the mini-series based on Cut & Run has been scripted, actress Robyn Malcolm has been cast as Anna Markunas, and a great crew has been confirmed.