24th Davitt Awards for women’s crime books now open

Sisters in Crime Australia’s 24th Davitt Awards for the best crime and mystery books by Australian women from 2023 are now open.

The competition is open to books by all women, whether cisgender, transgender or intersex, who are citizens/residents of Australia. Self-published books are eligible. Please note that books co-written or co-edited with men or including chapters by men are not eligible.

Publishers have until Friday 1 March to submit. The Davitts cost publishers $25 a title to enter. Details here.
Sisters in Crime will announce a longlist in mid-June and a shortlist in late July.

The Davitts are again supported by Swinburne University of Technology.

Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Melbourne, hopefully on 31 August: 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).

Award-winning crime short story writer, Ruth Wykes, is the new Judges’ Coordinator, and says the six judges are clearing their decks in preparation of The Big Read (forget The Big Sleep – there won’t be a lot of time for sleeping!)

“2024 already looks like another bumper year for the Davitts. There are already nearly 150 books in contention, including an astonishing 126 adult crime novels. Whatever the final figure, it is a massive increase on the seven books nominated back in 2000, when the Awards were launched at Sisters in Crime’s 10th anniversary convention SheKilda,” she said. 

“Almost 40 of the books are debut. This is not surprising since the crime and mystery genre is hugely popular and it’s a genre that allows writers to explore so many different issues and so many different time periods, a ‘broad church’, as we are wont to joke. Whether it’s death in subterranean caves on the South Australian limestone coast or seven women plotting to avenge the murders of their sisters, women crime writers write stories that thrill, entertain, subvert and inspire.

“Their stories, which often feature women kick-arse heroes, find a ready audience, particularly amongst women – and women, of course, make up the majority of book buyers and book club members. The crime books on the list are also notable for their striking evocations of place and time. They transport us from the wild and moody west coast of Tasmania to the suffocating humidity of Darwin, and from Fiji in 1914 to the world of tea ladies in Sydney sixties to contemporary Crows Nest outside Toowoomba.

This year’s Davitts entrants will include tried-and-true authors such as Sally Hepworth (Darling Girls), Candice Fox (Fire with Fire), and Anne Buist (Locked Ward) plus other creatives, such as screenwriter playwright Elizabeth Coleman (A Routine Infidelity), who have turned to crime novels for the first time. Several books feature the legal world – Prima Facie by playwright-turned-novelist, Suzie Miller, She Too by Eve Thompson, How to Kill a Client by Joanna Jenkins, and The Interpreter by Brooke Robinson.

One book, The Detective’s Chair by Anne M Carson, is in verse. Another, The Nosy Detectives by Louisa Bennet, features a dog detective named Monty. Tea ladies are the sleuths in the debut book of the same name by Amanda Hampson.

Wykes said that this year several books deal with mental health issues, perhaps a reflection of the effects of Covid and lengthy lockdowns.

“Serial killers and closer-to-home psychopaths have made a return after a few quiet years and there has been a surge in cosy mysteries,” she said.

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached.

The judging panel for 2024 comprises Ruth Wykes 2016 Scarlet Stiletto Award winner, author, and editor; Deb Bodinnar, retired bookseller; Emily Gale, author of Junior and Young Adult fiction; Romany Rzechowicz, 2023 Scarlet Stiletto Award winner and communications manager; Emily Webb, journalist, author and podcaster; and Lyn Yates, professor of education.

The previous Davitts have been presented by Debi Marshall, Australian true crime author & broadcaster (2023); Louise Milligan, Australian true crime author & broadcaster (2023) ; Debra Oswald, Australian crime author (2021); Val McDermid, Scottish crime writer (2020, 2010, 2003); Dr Joanne Drayton, NZ crime writer (2019); Sissel-Jo Gazan, Danish crime writer (2018); Hilary Bonney, Australian crime author (2017); Liane Moriarty, Australian crime author (2016); Sophie Hannah, UK crime writer (2015); Lauren Beukes, South African crime writer (2014); Vanda Symon, New Zealand crime writer (2013); Åsa Larsson, Swedish crime writer (2012); Shamini Flint, Singaporean crime writer (2011); Justice Betty King (2009); Judge Liz Gaynor (2008); Estelle Blackburn, Walkley-winning investigative journalist (2007); Karen Kissane, true crime writer (2006); Debbie Killroy, Sisters Inside (2005); Karin Slaughter, US crime writer (2004); Sharan Burrow, ACTU President (2002); and Christine Nixon, (then) Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police (2001).
For details about last year’s Davitt Award winners, go here. More info about the Davitts generally is here.  

Sisters in Crime Australia was set up 33 years ago and has chapters in all states. It also hosts a popular annual short-story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, which turns 31 this year.

To enter the Davitts, publishers should contact Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime, National Co-convenor asap on admin@sistersincrime.org.au and get books to the judges before Friday 1 March. Enquiries: 0412 569 356

Media comment: Ruth Wykes on rwykes7@bigpond.com; 0407 898 754

More info: Carmel Shute, Secretary & National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia, on 0412 569 356; admin@sistersincrime.org.au

Info: www.sistersincrime.org.au