24th Davitt Awards – a reading marathon

Thirty books have made it to Sisters in Crime Australia’s longlist for its 24th Davitt Awards for the best crime and mystery books published by women in 2023.

Judges’ coordinator, Ruth Wykes, says it’s not only Olympians who are dealing with a marathon.

“The six Davitt judges have had to read 153 crime books, including a formidable 120 adult novels,” she said.

“So many books and so much talent! The Davitts have come a long way since seven books were in contention at the inaugural awards back in 2001. Australian women authors are transforming the crime scene, both nationally and internationally.

Suzie Miller’s novel, Prima Facie, based on her Olivier and Tony Award-winning play of the same name, has stormed the globe. It is a compelling exploration of what happens when a criminal barrister who specialises in getting rapists off is herself raped,” Wykes says.

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies, Alison Goodman’s romp through Regency England, was designated a Washington Post Best Mystery Novel of 2023 and Amazon editors nominated it as their top crime book last year. One of Alison’s books was promoted on an electronic billboard in Times Square over Christmas/New Year in 2005 – we’d love to see this one up in the big lights.”

Wykes says that adult novels are heading off in new and interesting directions.

“This year, only two police procedurals have been long-listed. The new sleuths range from tea ladies, historians, vets, contact tracers, criminal psychologists, to just ordinary citizens. Books are variously set in Australia, Sweden, the UK, and the USA – or, in the case of Carolyn Swindell’s, We Only Want What’s Best, in a plane flying 35,000 feet above the earth,” she said.

“Themes range from INCELS, coercive control, prison, the inequities of the legal system, criminal psychology, mental health, and, of course, male violence. Marija Pericic’s, Exquisite Corpse, ventures into the Gothic with a Stockholm doctor in 1930 trying to raise a dead woman from the grave.

“Some books are also taking the blow torch to ‘rural noir’. Bronwyn Hall’s The Chasm culminates in a pursuit on horseback to rival The Man from Snowy River. It screams to be on the screen. The Rush by Michelle Prak is set during a flood in the outback – not a dusty road in sight.”

The non-fiction books are similarly diverse, Wykes said.

Obsession is Nicole Madigan’s first-person account of being stalked – by another woman! Ahona Guha’s Reclaim: Understanding complex trauma and those who abuse explores the relationship between trauma and mental health. Christine Kenneally’s Ghosts of the Orphanage is the result of a ten-year investigation into the dark, secret history of Catholic orphanages. Rebecca Hazel’s The Schoolgirl, her Teacher and his Wife is also the result of a ten-year inquiry. Long before The Teacher’s Pet podcast, Hazel was enquiring into the unexplained disappearance of Lynette Dawson,” she said.

The Young Adult novels and the children’s novels were again a delight – so many original themes, so much whacky humour, Wykes said.

Amy Doak’s Eleanor Jones Is Not a Murderer is an engaging story about a schoolgirl falsely accused of murder. Some Shall Break, is Ellie Marney’s sequel to her New York Times bestselling thriller None Shall Sleep, focusing on junior FBI consultants,” she said.

Alison Tait’s and Anna Zobel’s novels appeal as coming-of-age books. Copycat is a joyously funny detective story by Kelli Anne Hawkins, who is better known as the adult fiction writer, Kelli Hawkins. Alison Rushby, who won the Davitt (Best Children’s Novel) in 2018, is again the running with the wonderfully titled Miss Penny Dreadful and the Malicious Maze.”

This year the Davitts are again supported by the Swinburne University of Technology.

Voting for the Readers’ Award Choice closes Wednesday 31 July, 11.59 pm. Information here.

Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel on Saturday 31 August by award-winning author and global publishing phenomenon, Sulari Gentill: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult Novel; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted the 600+ members of Sisters in Crime Australia). Prior to the awards presentation, Sulari will be in conversation about her life in crime with Sisters in Crime’s president and author, Kelly Gardiner. Bookings here.

A shortlist will be published in July.

The longlist is pasted in below and it’s also available as a pdf.


Best Adult Novels (16)

Alison Goodman, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies (HarperCollins Australia)

Bronwyn Hall, The Chasm (HQ Fiction)

Amanda Hampson, The Tea Ladies (Penguin Random House) Debut

Catherine Jinks, Traced (Text Publishing)

Christine Keighery, The Half Brother (Ultimo Press) Debut

Ali Lowe, The Running Club (Hodder & Stoughton)

Mercedes Mercier, Black Lies (HarperCollins Australia)

Suzie Miller, Prima Facie (Pan Macmillan Australia) Debut

Marija Pericic, Exquisite Corpse (Ultimo Press)

Michelle Prak, The Rush (Simon & Schuster) Debut

Joan Sauers, Echo Lake (Allen & Unwin) Debut

Amy Suiter Clarke, Lay Your Body Down (Text Publishing)

Carolyn Swindell, We Only Want What’s Best (Affirm Press) Debut

Darcy Tindale, The Fall Between (Penguin Random House) Debut

Monica Vuu, When One of Us Hurts (Pan Macmillan Australia) Debut

Patricia Wolf, Paradise (Echo Publishing)

Best Non-Fiction Books (6)

Marele Day, Reckless (Ultimo Press)

Ahona Guha, Reclaim: Understanding complex trauma and those who abuse (Scribe Publications) Debut

Rebecca Hazel, The Schoolgirl, her Teacher and his Wife (Penguin Random House)

Christine Kenneally, Ghosts of the Orphanage (Hachette Australia)

Nicole Madigan, Obsession (Pantera Press) Debut

Megan Norris, The Messiah’s Bride (Penguin Random House)

Best Young Adult Novels (2)

Amy Doak, Eleanor Jones Is Not a Murderer (Penguin Random House) Debut

Ellie Marney, Some Shall Break (Allen & Unwin)

Best Children’s Novel (6)

Lucinda Gifford, The Wolves of Greycoat Hall (Walker Books)

Ash Harrier, The Eerie Excavation (Pantera Press)

Kelli Anne Hawkins, Copycat (HarperCollins Australia)

Alison Rushby, Miss Penny Dreadful and the Malicious Maze (Walker Books)

Alison Tait, The First Summer of Callie McGee (Scholastic Australia)

Anna Zobel, This Camp Is Doomed: A Dennith Grange Misadventure (Penguin Random House)