Goin’ to Southern Islands*

NZReading1Like any other kind of fiction, crime fiction benefits from the sound of fresh, new author voices. And trust me (oh, trust me!) it’s not easy to write that first crime novel, even if you’ve had experience writing poetry, short stories or non-fiction.

That’s why I am absolutely delighted to have been invited to join the judging panel for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel. The awards will be presented in August, and I can’t wait! What a thrill! Not only do I get to help with New Zealand’s most prestigious crime fiction awards, but I get to read some terrific Kiwi crime fiction. How lucky can a girl get?

As you can guess, I’m buried under some wonderful Kiwi crime novels *Pause for mental picture.*  I’m having a fabulous time, and I thought I’d share it with you by giving you a peek at the titles that are contenders for the Best First Novel Award. I’ll share half of the titles today, and the other half tomorrow. Ready to pull out your wish list??  Here goes:


Ray Berard – Inside the Black Horse


A young man is waiting outside a pub on a cold winter’s night. There is a debt to pay and no options left.

What he does next drags a group of strangers into a web of confusion that over the course of a few days changes all their lives.
There’s the young Maori widow just trying to raise her children, the corporate executive hiding his mistake, the gang of criminals that will do whatever it takes to recover what they’ve lost – and the outsider sent to town to tease out the truth.
Stepping into the shoes of every player dragged into the fray, Berard takes the reader on a dangerous and desperate journey, where bonds are built and broken and we find out who, if anyone, will survive. 


Murder and MatchmakingDebbie Cowens Murder & Matchmaking


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mother in possession of unmarried daughters must be in want of wedding bells. Less well known are the lengths to which she might go to achieve that wish. 






John Daniell The Fixer

Blurb:The Fixer

Match-fixing is one of the biggest issues surrounding sport at this time. John Daniell, a former professional rugby player, has written the fascinating novel about Mark Stevens, a former All Black playing professional rugby in Paris. Moving toward the end of his career Mark is drawn, through his relationship with a beautiful journalist, first into betting on matches and then into match-fixing. From on his own experience, Daniell shows how an innocent player can be drawn into an illegal world, one where your actions place your family, half a world away, in danger.




Alexandra GastoneT.A. Maclagan – They Call Me Alexandra Gastone


When your life is a lie, how do you know what’s real?

Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation.
She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash.
Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.
For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing.
But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.
Between her cover as a high school girl—juggling a homecoming dance, history reports, and an increasingly suspicious boyfriend—and her mission in this high-stakes spy game, the boundaries of her two lives are beginning to blur.
Will she stay true to the country she barely remembers, or has her loyalty shattered along with her identity?


Christodoulos Moisa – The Hour of the Grey Wolf

Blurb:Moisa - The Hour of The Grey Wolf (front)

The Hour of the Grey Wolf, is set in Cyprus during 1973. The CIA and its Greek Junta proxy are gunning for Archbishop Makarios, the democratically elected first president of the Republic, and because of this a civil war, where Greek would be fighting Greek, is looming. The narrator is Steve Carpenter, a New Zealand journalist of Cypriot descent. Wounded in Vietnam where he has worked for REUTERS, he chooses to go to Cyprus to recuperate. However, as a new chapter in Cypriot history unfolds, he becomes drawn into solving a murder that occurs in Mpalloura, the village where he is living. Knowing that he may be putting his own life at risk, Carpenter gingerly delves into the deadly politics of the time and the labyrinth-like complexity of a peasant village whose inner darkness one is rarely exposed to.


The Alo ReleaseGeoffrey Robert – The Alo Release


Nine days before the global release of a genetically modified seed coating set to make starvation history, the IT advisor for an environmental group receives a cryptic email from an old friend working for the seed corporation.
The email triggers a frantic manhunt from the glass towers of Los Angeles to the towering rainforests of New Zealand as the corporation’s security chief tries to track down and silence the English IT advisor and his colleagues – an American biologist and New Zealand eco-warrior.
As the clock ticks down to the much-anticipated and highly stage-managed release of the coated seeds, the trio are pitched against ruthless corporate thugs, law enforcement agencies, politicians, journalists and bloggers … and the overwhelming weight of world opinion.
Aided by an unlikely cast including a gun-toting geriatric, reclusive hacker, toothless lobster fisherman, Oxford-educated Maori elder, native hardwood poacher and extreme multisporter, the fugitive trio race the clock to unravel the truth behind the email.
In this debut novel, author, journalist and former communications advisor Geoffrey Robert delivers a pulsating thriller exposing the potential for public opinion to be manipulated during an international crisis. 


In the interest of not making this post too long, I’ll tell you about the rest tomorrow. But as you can already see, there’s a rich variety of new books out there!!! Little wonder I’m so delighted to be a part of the team.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Southern Cross.


Filed under Christodoulos Moisa, Debbie Cowens, Geoffrey Robert, John Daniell, Ray Berard, T.A. Maclagan

35 responses to “Goin’ to Southern Islands*

  1. Sounds like great fun as well as an honor.

  2. Oh, that sounds great, Margot – and with your extensive knowledge of crime fiction, may I say you’re an inspired choice to be a judge! The blurbs of these sound great too – a really eclectic mix and not a cliché amonst them. There are several that might fit nicely on my TBR… I look forward to hearing more about them when the judging gets done!

    • Thank you, FictionFan 🙂 *Blush* – You’re absolutely right about the diverse kinds of books that are up for the award. All sorts of themes, contexts and the like. I’m really enjoying that aspect of it. And no, no clichés – not even a drunken demon-haunted copper who can’t work with a team, can’t stay in a relationship and can’t stay out of the pub… 😉

  3. Janet Fearnley

    Congratulations, Margot, that’s wonderful! What a lot of reading you have but it certainly does look like a fascinating and varied list (Pt 1!) I’m sure you will but I do hope you have a great time. These writers are in great hands with you on board. It will be interesting to follow the process (if you’re able to update your avid readers) and, hopefully, read about your experience in due course….?

    • Thank you, Janet 🙂 – It is a terrific list, with some great variety and some really interesting themes. And no worries – I shall update everyone on how it’s all going as I can.

  4. I can see why you’re excited. They all sound so good. Have fun!

  5. Congrats, Margot. What fun!

  6. mudpuddle

    of course i wouldn’t try to influence your decision in any way, but(he whispers behind the keyboard), the Moisa sounds intriguing…

    • That’s one of the great parts about doing this, Mudpuddle (and the difficult part) – there are some really intriguing titles here. It’s going to be hard to settle on one, or even a short list…

  7. Enjoy! And congratulations.

  8. Ahhhh…just a little hint at what agents must go through trying to decide what to publish. Good luck helping to pick a winner.

  9. The sheer variety on display here is really impressive – thanks for this Margot, after my visit to South Island this year I am very interested to hear more!

  10. You’ll be a great judge! But what a tough decision to make!

  11. Margot, these are very wonderful books and they sound promising. On a related note, I’m lagging behind my own self-styled challenge to read “first novels” of authors, old and new, from genres I usually read. I hope to continue with my “meme” this year.

  12. Congratulations, Margot. That sounds like it will be loads of fun. Can’t wait to hear about your experience.

  13. Cripes talk about spoiled for choice. Some fab books here by the looks of it. Congratulations Margot, how wonderful and exciting and what an honour. I am sure you will be a excellent judge. The authors are in good hands. Don’t forget to let us all know what happens. I can hardly wait.

  14. How fun for you, Margot. And thanks for giving us an introduction to those new books.

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  17. How sensible of them to choose you! These sound great, look forward to reading the rest of the list.

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