Tsunami of women’s crime (writing) – Davitt Awards nominations announced

Swinburne University of Technology logo - media and communications department

A list of the books in contention is here.

An astonishing 166 books are competing in Sisters in Crime’s 22nd Davitt Awards for the best crime and mystery books – far in excess of the record 127 in the running last year and in 2019.

This year the Davitts are again supported by Swinburne University of Technology. Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner on Saturday 27 August by award-winning ABC journalist and true-crime author, Louise Milligan, at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel: 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 500+ members of Sisters in Crime Australia).

Judge coordinator comments

Judging coordinator, Dr Philomena Horsley, said that the six Davitt judges were hugely impressed by the outpouring of female criminal creativity though they have to resort to matchsticks to keep their eyes open.

“It’s a tsunami of women’s crime writing. And it’s not just the number of books that has us in awe – it’s the soaring quality of the writing. We are particularly struck by the standard of the 57 debut books – so accomplished. Quite a few are novels completed as part of PhDs in Creative Writing courses and the polishing they receive is evident,” she said.

“It’s not surprising that more and more women are taking up a life of crime (writing) – it’s the most popular genre and offers so many possibilities when it comes to story-telling. The deficiencies of Australia’s criminal justice system are writ large in books such as Sarah Barrie’s, Unforgiven, B.M. Carroll’s You Had It Coming, and Debra Oswald’s The Family Doctor.”

Dr Horsley said that crime is no longer just stalking the mean streets of our cities – it has undergone both a tree change and a sea change.

“Books such as Lyn Yeowart’s The Silent Listener and Erina Redden’s The Serpent’s Skin delve deep into the darkness of rural life. Crime heads to the coast in Katherine Firkin’s The Girl Remains and Elizabeth Flann’s, Beware of Dogs. Other books take us overseas – to France (Pip Drysdale’s The Paris Affair and Kirsty Manning’s, The French Gift), Zimbabwe (C M Elliott’s Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk), Nevada (CandiceFox’s The Chase ), Scotland (Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves), and Auckland (Suzanne Frankham’s Shadow over Edmund Street),” she said.

Dr Horsley said that there was a strong showing in the Non-Fiction category this year and a great diversity of topics. The nominations include a memoir of policing (Veronica Gorrie’s Black and Blue), a memoir about forensic science and autopsies (Meryl Broughton’s Autopsies for the Armchair Enthusiast), and a literary analysis of murder due to illegal land clearing (Kate Holden’s The Winter Road),

“It’s a shame that not more YA and children’s novels are in contention,” she said. “Last year, the book that had us all transfixed with laughter was the winning children’s novel, Lian Tanner’s A Clue for Clara, about a wonderful scruffy, chook detective.”

Dr Horsley said that screen adaptions were transforming the criminal literary scene.

“We’ve just had the pleasure of viewing Troppo, the eight-part series based on Candice Fox’s Crimson Lake. Production is now underway for the film of Force of Nature, Jane Harper’s second Aaron Falk novel. Like the film of The Dry, it will star Eric Bana. Jane is a serial offender in the Davitt Awards,” she said.

Readers’ Award Choice voting

Voting for the Readers’ Award Choice opens on Friday 10 June, closing Friday 24 July. Only financial members are eligible to vote. A shortlist will be published in July.

Awards trophy and name

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. They cost publishers nothing to enter.

The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached. Self-published books are eligible. Books co-authored or edited by men are not.

Judging panel 2022

The judging panel for 2022 comprises Philomena Horsley, winner of the 2018 Scarlet Stiletto Award and medical autopsy expert; Joy Lawn, YA expert, and reviewer; Janice Simpson, author and academic; Emily Webb, true crime author, and podcaster; Jacquie Byron, business journalist, and novelist, and Moraig Kisler, Sisters in Crime’s President, and review editor.

Past Davitt presenters

The previous Davitts have been presented by:

  • Debra Oswald, Australian crime author (2021)
  • Val McDermid, Scottish crime writer (2020, 2010, 2003)
  • Dr Joanne Drayton, NZ crime writer (2019)
  • Dr Joanne Drayton, NZ crime writer (2019)
  • Hilary Bonney, Australian crime author (2018)
  • Liane Moriarty, Australian crime author (2016)
  • Sophie Hannah, UK crime writer (2015)
  • Lauren Beukes, South Africa 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)
  • Christine Nixon, (then) Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police (2001).

Books in contention

A list of the books in contention is attached here.

For more information

Media comment: Philomena Horsley on 0417 121 771;

More info: Carmel Shute, Secretary & National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia, on 0412 569 356;