Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Crime Fiction Enters the Sensorvault Era: Guest Post by Chuck Greaves


The science of fingerprinting was pioneered by Sir Francis Galton, a British anthropologist who, beginning in 1888, published a series of monographs establishing that each individual’s prints are unique and that they remain so, unchanged, over a lifetime. Recognizing the significance of Galton’s research, Scotland Yard began collecting and compiling the fingerprints of arrestees for use in criminal investigations and prosecutions, and by the dawn of the twentieth century fingerprinting had become commonplace, both in policing and in the public’s understanding of police procedure.

Roughly a century after Galton’s pioneering research, DNA evidence was first employed in a rape and double-murder investigation in Leicester, England in 1986, both to exonerate the 17-year-old suspect already in custody, and later to identify and convict the actual killer. Subsequent advances in the extraordinary, revolutionary field of forensic genetics have allowed crime-scene investigators to extract and analyze genetic material from even the slightest biological trace evidence, and thereby to identify or exclude suspects using what amounts to their individual “genetic bar-codes.”

Today, perpetrators know better than to leave their fingerprints or their DNA at the scene of a crime, and crime writers know to use or manipulate such evidence in our stories. Thus our fictional burglars wear gloves, and our fictional killers wipe prints from their murder weapons, and our fictional CSI investigators probe and comb for minute bits of hair and blood evidence.

To simply ignore fingerprint or DNA evidence in our fiction would be to commit authorial malpractice. Yet that is precisely what many crime writers are doing when it comes to one of the latest and potentially most consequential items in the modern law enforcement tool box.

In October of 2021, I spoke at a crime convention in Crested Butte, Colorado and asked a roomful of veteran and aspiring mystery writers if they’d ever heard of Sensorvault. Not a single hand went up. Which didn’t surprise me, given the number of novels I’d been reading in which, had Sensorvault been employed, the story would have ended at around page 10.

Sensorvault was born in 2009, when Google began using GPS and related technologies to track the geo-location of every Android-based mobile device on earth (and every non-Android device, such as iPhones, that use the Google search engine, or a Google app like Maps) and store that information in a searchable database. The Sensorvault database thus contains precise historical location data for literally hundreds of millions of mobile devices worldwide, making it a treasure-trove for criminal investigators seeking to learn, for example, who may have been at or near a particular crime scene on or around a particular date or time. Moreover, the information stored in Sensorvault is readily available to law enforcement agencies via court-issued “geofence warrants” that are rapidly becoming routine tools in criminal investigation. According to Google, it received fewer than a thousand geofence warrants in 2018; by 2020, that number had ballooned to over 11,500.

Geofence warrants specify a defined geographic area – a particular house, for example, or even a city block – and a limited time period. Searching Sensorvault, Google then identifies any and all mobile devices present at the relevant time and place and codes them with anonymous ID numbers. If the requesting agency can show probable cause, the court will then order Google to reveal the users’ identities. Thus geofence warrants are sometimes called “reverse-location warrants” in that, unlike a typical search warrant, the process begins not with a particular suspect but rather works backward from a place and time to identify possible suspects. Moreover, once a particular mobile device has been identified, Sensorvault can continue tracking its movements outside the original geo-fence coordinates.

Geofence warrants are potential game-changers in criminal investigation, not unlike fingerprint and DNA evidence before them. And like those earlier innovations, the availability of geofence warrants and the Sensorvault database must be considered when plotting a credible crime story. For want of a less self-serving example, I’ll refer readers to my just-released legal thriller The Chimera Club, in which a geofence warrant and forensic genetics both are employed, and manipulated, along the serpentine path to catching a killer.

The upshot here is that we as crime writers must take a hard look at our works in progress. Is there a scene in which resort to a geofence warrant might help identify the killer? If so, are the police or FBI accessing Sensorvault? If not, then why not? We’re quickly reaching the point at which readers will be asking these very questions, and we as savvy storytellers had better have the answers baked into our novels or else risk the distinctive clunking sound of a tossed book hitting a reader’s wall.


Chuck Greaves, a former L.A. trial lawyer, is a Shamus, Lefty, Macavity, Audie, and Harper Lee Prize finalist and the author of seven novels including four installments in his Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries. You can visit him at

Monday, September 26, 2022

MAPBACK MONDAY: Helen McCloy's The Goblin Market

Mapback Monday! I love these wonderful Dell Mapbacks.

Here's a great Mapback paperback -- Helen McCloy's The Goblin Market. The title and quotation are from Christina Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market." The novel was first published in 1942, but by Dell as a Mapback paperback in 1943.

I'm a big fan of Helen McCloy and her Dr. Basil Willing. The Goblin Market is set during WWII (1942) on the island of Santa Teresa in the Caribbean. This is a spy novel and involves codes and ciphers (cablese), as the foreign correspondents send cables to the home office. And, McCloy adds a good chapter on how cablese works. Helen McCloy was herself a newspaper correspondent in Paris, so she knows what she writes. I like the feminist and psychological elements of this novel. I also like that The Goblin Market foreshadows my favorite McCloy, Through a Glass, Darkly.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

MYSTERIES SET DURING THE DAYS OF AWE: Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur

According to Jewish religion, the Days of Awe are the days between the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashana) and Yom Kippur.
These are 10 days of repentance and renewal that begin at sunset on Rosh Hashanah and close with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That a murder would take place on Yom Kippur (or during the Days of Awe) runs counter to Jewish belief or action. Let's hope murders only take place in fiction!

Here's an updated short list of Mysteries that take place on Rosh Hashana, during the Days of Awe, and on Yom Kippur. As always, I welcome any additions to this list. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year!

Mysteries set during the Days of Awe

Three Weeks in October by Yael Dayan
The Day of Atonement by Breck England
Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio
The Yom Kippur Murder by Lee Harris
A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn
Day of Atonement by Faye Kellerman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
The Day of Atonement by David Liss
A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani
Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen

Yom Killer by Rabbi Ilene Schneider
Devil Among Us by Jack Winnick

Short Stories:  

Murder is no Mitzvah: Short Mysteries about Jewish Occasions
Mystery Midrash: An Anthology of Jewish Mystery & Detective Fiction, edited by Lawrence W. Raphael
Jewish Noir, edited by Kenneth Wishia

Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Deeds, ed. by Kenneth Wishnia and Chantelle Aimee Osman

"The Lord is my Shamus" by Barb Goffman 

Children's Books

Pinky Blog and the Case of the Silent Shofar by Judy Press and Erica-Jane Waters


Family Blood: The True Story of the Yom Kippur Murders by Mr. Marvin J. Elf and Mr. Larry Attebery

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year! And, may we have peace in the world!

Cartoon of the Day: Rosh Hashanah

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Authors and their Cats: Margaret Mitchell

Happy Caturday! Authors and their Cats: Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind.

Isn't she a beauty? And so is Margaret Mitchell.

Friday, September 23, 2022

FOODIE FRIDAYS: Mia Manansala: Remembering My Father with a Filipino Holiday Recipe

Today I welcome award-winning mystery author Mia P. Manansala to Foodie Fridays


Mia P. Manansala: Remembering My Father with a Filipino Holiday Recipe

One of the most common questions I get about my series is: Where do you get the inspiration for all the delicious food? 


And the answer is: my father, who passed away two weeks before Christmas in 2018 (and who I dedicated Arsenic and Adobo to).


My dad was a quiet, stoic man, and not very demonstrative when it came to showing affection. But his love for his family was abundantly clear in his food. He worked long, hard hours all week at a printing factory to help provide for the nine-person household. And every weekend, he would set out early with my maternal grandmother to hit up the various markets to find the best, freshest, and cheapest ingredients for the weekend feasts he would prepare for us.


One regret I’m willing to admit is never getting his Filipino recipes. My dad was one of the best cooks I knew. He cooked in that old-school way, without any real recipes. He just sensed, felt, and tasted his way through and, more often than not, his meals were absolutely delicious. 


He was in the hospital twice before he passed: the week before Thanksgiving and then the week after. The first time he was hospitalized, I tried to get his recipe for lumpiang shanghai (Filipino pork egg rolls), and his verbal recitation of ingredients and steps involved no measurements, temperatures, or times. I was just expected to feel my way through.


Sometimes I wonder if my tendency to mess with baking recipes and occasionally pants my way through my stories (despite having an outline) comes from my father’s approach to cooking.


I thought about sharing that recipe with you, but decided on something else: his last request to me. That same hospital visit, we were talking about the dishes I had planned for Thanksgiving since I host every year. Near the end of his life, food was one of his few pleasures, though we did try to temper it due to his dietary restrictions. 


So when I asked him what dessert he wanted, he requested something sweet and simple and very Filipino: Pinoy Fruit Salad.


Just about every ingredient is from a can or jar, and I’m pretty sure it came into popularity due to the American colonial period when the U.S. military presence brought an influx of canned goods to the Philippines. Some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar or seem rather strange (cheddar cheese?!), but trust me, it’s all delicious.


He didn’t come to Thanksgiving at my house since he was still weak from his hospital visit, so I didn’t make the fruit salad then. I thought I would make it for him for Christmas, but I never got that chance. Instead, I made it for his memorial that year, and I continue making it every year for the holidays in memory of him.


In honor of my father, I’m going to give you the recipe that he dictated to me. It’s not word for word since I didn’t think to write it down, but definitely in his spirit.


Miss you, Daddy.

Pinoy (Filipino-style) Fruit Salad



      1 or 2 cans of fruit cocktail

      Macapuno (coconut sport) OR package of buko (young coconut)

      Nata de coco

      Can of Nestle table cream (my dad said it HAS to be Nestle)

      Can of condensed milk

      Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)



  1. Drain the first three ingredients very well. 
  2. Put them in a big bowl and add the table cream, condensed milk, and cheese (if you’re using it). 
  3. Mix well and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!


You can also freeze the mixture (my preference). The texture becomes ice cream-like, which I love, though you’ll want to let it thaw slightly so that it’s scoopable.


Mia P. Manansala is a writer from Chicago who loves books, baking, and badass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Blackmail and Bibingka is the latest in the latest in her Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series.



What sad news. British author Hilary Mantel, author of 17 books including Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and the Light trilogy, has passed away. She suffered a stroke on Monday and died Thursday. She was 70. What a loss. 

Parul Sehgal, a former book critic for The New York Times, wrote in a 2020 review of “The Mirror and the Light” that Ms. Mantel’s writing envelops the reader “in the sweep of a story rich with conquest, conspiracy and mazy human psychology.” Ms. Mantel was not just a writer of historical fiction, Ms. Sehgal said, but an expert in showing “what power reveals and conceals in human character.”

Read more in the NYT obituary here.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Cartoon of the Day: Gray Areas of the Law

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! 3 premieres the same night!

Three special Masterpiece programs start the same night! 

Female Sleuths rule the lineup on MASTERPIECE Mystery! Don't miss the premieres of 

Miss Scarlet and The Duke Season 2 

Magpie Murders 

and the special broadcast premiere of Annika

Sunday, October 16 (times listed below). 


Miss Scarlet and The Duke Season 2 airs at 8/7c on PBS


Magpie Murders, adapted by author Anthony Horowitz airs at 9/8c on PBS (Book to Screen Discussion questions attached for you to share, along with social posts.)


Annika, the new series starring Nicola Walker airs at 10/9c on PBS

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Marketville Mysteries, Three Years Later: Guest Post by Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk: The Marketville Mysteries, Three Years Later

The Winter 2021 edition of Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 37, No. 4) featured Cold Case Mysteries, and I was honored to have my article on writing cold case cozies included. At the time, I had published three books in my Marketville Mystery series: Skeletons in the Attic (#1), Past & Present (#2) and A Fool’s Journey (#3), the latter released in August 2019. As much as the series was well received, and as much as I loved my kickass amateur sleuth turned professional investigator Calamity (Callie) Barnstable—and her partners in solving cold cases at Past & Present Investigations (Chantelle Marchand, genealogist, Shirley Harrington, reference librarian and Misty Rivers, self-proclaimed psychic)—I’ll admit I didn’t have much in the way of an idea for book #4 beyond a title: Before There Were Skeletons.

I blame part of my lack of inspiration on Covid lockdowns in 2020—no one was more surprised than me to discover I needed the stimulation of the world outside of my office—and a fall on the ice and subsequent concussion in 2021. 

Fast forward to January 2022. I’m back to doing New York Times crosswords and getting restless. And then I remembered Callie and Before There Were Skeletons

The realization that it would be three-plus years since the last book in the series was the first thing I needed to address. In Skeletons in the Attic, first published August 2016, Callie was thirty-six, birthday May 1, 1980. Before There Were Skeletons would be set in February 2022. Aging her in place would bring her to forty-two, on the cusp of forty-three. I also had to accept that her former partners may have moved on in three years, and in truth, I wanted them to. 

I sent Chantelle back to her ex (formerly known as Lance the Loser), the couple now living in Ottawa, had Shirley retire to spend winters in Florida (a true Canadian snowbird) and Misty Rivers married and setting down roots in British Columbia. The latter was especially fun because toward the end of book #3, A Fool’s Journey, Misty had just been set up on a blind date.

Of course, Callie can’t go about solving cases without someone to do some of the more tedious tasks, like digging through library newspaper archives, and so I invented Denim Hopkins, a twenty-four-year-old tech savvy waitress. Denim doesn’t have any formal sleuthing experience, but she’s keen to learn and she’s on a mission to find a missing person of her own—a deadbeat ex-boyfriend that drained their joint bank account, let the rent check bounce, and left her like a thief in the night. With her former best girlfriend, no less.

Early readers have told me that Denim adds a fresh new dimension to the series, and as an author, it gives me the added benefit of explaining an investigative process that might otherwise seem contrived. I’ve also enjoyed writing her character enough to consider expanding her role in book #5, whenever that might be. 


About the Book

The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night. 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons.


Before There Were Skeletons will release on October 21 and is currently available for pre-order at all the usual suspects. Universal Book Link:

The e-book version is promotionally priced at $2.99 until October, when the price will increase to $4.99 US/$5.99 CAD. Trade paperback and large print versions will also be available for pre-order by October 1.



A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited. 

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at



Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Cartoon of the Day: Write What You Know


Strand Magazine Critics Awards were announced last night. Congratulations to all!


Bullet Train by Kōtarō Isaka, Translated by Sam Malissa (Harry Abrams) 


Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby (Flatiron Books) I


Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic Inc. in New York City. 


Sandra Brown 
Nelson DeMille

Monday, September 19, 2022


, a biennial convention, held in Philadelphia, has canceled its in-person convention this year and replaced it with a virtual event October 21-23. The 2018 and 2022 Awards will be presented at that time. 

2018 Awards
David Goodis Award: Walter Mosley
Anne Friedberg Award for Contributions to Noir and its Preservation: Dana Polan
Kogan Award For Excellence: Geoffrey O’Brien and Max Rudin

2022 Awards
David Goodis Award: Megan Abbott
Anne Friedberg Award for Contributions to Noir and its Preservation: Sarah Weinman
Kogan Award For Excellence: Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

NoirCon is a three-day symposium celebrating noir in all its artistic incarnations with live and pre-recorded events, including panel discussions, award ceremonies, author talks, art exhibitions, movie screenings, and more.

Click Here to Register

HT: TheRapSheet

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Cartoon of the Day: Book


Authors and their Cats: Ezra Pound

Happy Caturday. Authors and their Cats: Ezra Pound

Tame Cat
by Ezra Pound

It rests me to be among beautiful women
Why should one always lie about such matters?
I repeat:
It rests me to converse with beautiful women
Even though we talk nothing but nonsense,

The purring of the invisible antennae
Is both stimulating and delightful. 

Friday, September 16, 2022


Welcome to Foodie Fridays where your favorite mystery writers post about food, often with a recipe! Today's guest is Meri Allen aka Shari Randall. I can't wait to make the latest in this series.


Nights are getting cooler, leaves are starting to turn, and what’s that delicious scent? Pumpkin spice? 

Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice ice cream is a running joke in my latest ice cream shop mystery, MINT CHOCOLATE MURDER. It’s a joke because if my main character Riley Rhodes didn’t laugh, she’d cry. She and her staff at the Udderly Delicious Ice Cream shop spend hours making pumpkin spice ice cream. What can I say? Pumpkin spice ice cream is delicious and it’s a perfect flavor for a mystery set in September, the month when summer mellows into fall.

It's expected that a culinary cozy mystery will include recipes. Eating the same dish your favorite character eats is a terrific way to enter into the world of a book. Besides, it seems cruel to describe a fabulous dessert without giving readers a way to enjoy it in real life. Many readers have told me they make a recipe from the book to serve during book club meetings, giving friends another way to experience a story.

But making ice cream requires equipment so I’ve made a point to develop a few no-churn recipes for readers who don’t have ice cream makers. This no-churn pumpkin spice ice cream recipe is perfect for those who can’t get enough of that favorite fall flavor. I like to serve it in a pie drizzled with caramel sauce as my friend Kim Davis does in the photo.

No Churn Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

No ice cream maker? No problem! I’m a bit skeptical of no-churn recipes, but I experimented and came up with one that worked like a charm. This delicious, fall-inspired ice cream is easy to make and even easier to eat.

This ice cream makes a wonderful accompaniment for any spice cake or you can use it as a delicious filling for an ice cream pie. Just fill your favorite pie shell and let it firm up in the freezer for six hours, drizzle with caramel sauce and a sprinkling of your favorite nuts before serving.


·   1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

·   3/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree

·   1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

·   1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

·   1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

·   1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

·   Pinch of cloves

·   1/2 teaspoon salt

·   4 tablespoons plain yogurt (I like Greek or Icelandic) at room temperature

·   2 cups heavy cream


1.     In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

2.     In another bowl, whisk the yogurt, then slowly pour in the heavy cream and combine, using a hand mixer on low (or a stand mixer, if you have one). Then whip on high until stiff peaks begin to form.

3.     Add half the whipped cream mixture to the sweetened condensed milk and whisk until completely combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream mixture until no streaks remain.

4.     Pour into a freezer-safe container and cover. You can use a loaf pan and cover with a layer of plastic wrap topped with tinfoil. At this point you can fill a pie shell if you'd like an ice cream pie. Put in the freezer until firm, at least 6 hours, and then enjoy!


About MINT CHOCOLATE MURDERWhen Udderly Delightful Ice Cream shop manager Riley Rhodes is summoned to Penniman’s Moy Mull Castle, it’s the cherry on top of a successful summer season. The gothic pile built by an eccentric New England Gilded Age millionaire has been transformed into a premiere arts colony by Maud Monaco, a reclusive former supermodel. As part of Moy Mull’s Fall Arts Festival, Maud is throwing a fantasy ice cream social and hires Riley to whip up unique treats to celebrate the opening of an exhibit by Adam Blasco, a photographer as obnoxious as he is talented.

As Penniman fills up with Maud’s art-world friends arriving for the festival, gossip swirls around Blasco, who has a dark history of obsession with his models. Riley’s curiosity and instincts for sleuthing – she was a CIA librarian – are piqued, and she wonders at the hold the cold-hearted photographer has over the mistress of Moy Mull.

But when Adam is found dead behind the locked door of Moy Mull’s dungeon, Riley realizes there’s more than one suspect who’d wanted to put the malicious photographer on ice

Meri Allen is the pen name of Shari Randall, author of the Agatha Award winning Lobster Shack Mystery series and the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series




Thursday, September 15, 2022


This is such incredible sad news. Mystery author Ritter Ames and her husband died in a house fire a few days ago. 

Posted by her friend Jodie Nida on Ritter Ames Facebook page:

I am heartbroken to convey the tragic news that Ritter Ames has passed away. She and her husband perished earlier this week when their home burned. Very little is known at this time about the cause of the fire or the plans to memorialize them.
They were both amazing people—vibrant and enjoying the lives they worked so hard to build. Ritter was a dedicated, talented author who always supported other writers in any way possible. Thankfully, her wonderful novels and articles have lives of their own and they will forever touch the hearts of her readers.
Deeply connected throughout their married lives, Ritter and her husband will be doubly mourned. Please join me in praying for their daughter Courtney.


Ritter Ames was the author of three cozy mystery series: The Bodies of Art Mysteries; The Organized Mysteries; and her latest series The Frugal Lissa Mysteries. The first in that series, Frugal Lissa Finds a Body is in bookstores now. 

She will be missed by family, friends, and the mystery community. May she Rest In Peace. 


Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!

Over the years, I've read just about every novel and story, play, and reference book on or by the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. I've taught classes on Agatha Christie at UCB, Santa Cruz, and St. Mary's College, as well as focused on Agatha Christie in my mystery book group. 

Agatha Christie visited the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and was particularly taken by the Peruvian Lily. Poisonous? Yes. In honor of that long-ago visit, I organized a poison tour for my book group at the UC Botanical Garden. We had a very knowledgeable guide.

For Agatha Christie's Centennial, I attended the CWA (Crime Writer Association- UK) conference in Torquay which included an Agatha Christie Centennial Celebration Banquet. Everyone was there, and by that, I mean all my favorite British crime writers and several of the actors who portrayed Christie's characters over the years. David Suchet sat at the next table. I saw Joan Hickson in the Ladies Room. During that same trip, I went with CWA to visit Greenway. This was long before it opened to the public. The family was in residence at the time, and either they forgot that a group of mystery writers was stopping by or they didn’t care, as the house was in a bit of disarray after what must have been Sunday dinner (lunch to us!). It was a very lovely (and intimate) tour of the house.

When I returned to the States that year, I was on the organizing committee of the U.S. Agatha Christie Centennial. There were reading challenges, library talks, courses, and lectures, and I even wrote an 'Agatha-Christie inspired' interactive mystery event. It was great fun!

And here's a real treat: A Video of a 1955 interview with Agatha Christie from the BBC Archives in which Agatha Christie talks about her lack of formal education and how boredom during childhood led her to write The Mysterious Affair at Styles. She outlines her working methods, Miss Marple, Herculte Poirot, and discusses why it is much easier to write plays than novels. 

Raise a glass today to Agatha Chrisite, the Queen of Crime!

2022 NGAIO MARSH AWARDS: Debut Novel sweeps the awards!

Giving Victims a Voice: Debut Novel sweeps 2022 Ngaio Marsh Awards

History was made at a special WORD Christchurch event on Thursday night (New Zealand time) as Taranaki author Jacqueline Bublitz’s first novel was revealed as the winner of both categories of the 2022 Ngaio Marsh Awards 


In the thirteenth instalment of Aotearoa’s annual awards celebrating excellence in crime, mystery, and thriller writing, Bublitz scooped both the Best First Novel and Best Novel prizes for BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME (Allen & Unwin). It is the first time any Kiwi storyteller has won both fiction categories. 


“Beautifully heart-breaking, stylishly written, and boldly pushing the envelope of crime fiction,” said the international judging panels. “Bublitz delivers a beguiling tale with great characterisation: Alice and Ruby are wonderful. This is a tragic but warm-hearted crime novel that gives victims agency and voice.” 


Ngaio Marsh Awards founder Craig Sisterson noted that while a few excellent debuts have been shortlisted for both categories over the past several years, BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME is the first book to ever win two Ngaio Marsh Awards. Bublitz also joins Christchurch author and international bestseller Paul Cleave, a three-time Best Novel winner, as the only Kiwi storytellers with multiple Ngaios. So far. 


“It’s a remarkable achievement by Jacqueline,” added Sisterson, “especially given the strength of the Best Novel category this year, which included past Ngaios winners in Cleave and RWR McDonald, a four-time finalist in Ben Sanders, a two-time Ockhams longlistee in Kirsten McDougall, and a many-times New York Times bestseller in Nalini Singh. Our judges really loved many different books, it was a tough decision.” 


The international judging panels for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards comprised leading crime fiction critics, editors, and authors from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Scotland, and the United States.  


While BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME shares an inciting incident familiar to any viewer of US cop shows – a jogger in New York City finds the body of a young woman – in her debut Bublitz flips the script by taking readers deep into the lives of Alice and Ruby, the victim and the jogger, rather than the detectives. 


On Thursday night, Bublitz was presented with the Best First Novel prize by bestselling Australian author Michael Robotham, then the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel by Scottish queen of crime Val McDermid. Before the audience found out whowunnit, Robotham and McDermid had entertained attendees in a thrilling panel with past Ngaios winner JP Pomare, as part of the trio’s Crime After Crime tour of New Zealand.  


The two Ngaio Marsh Awards add to a list of accolades for Bublitz’s debut that include winning General Fiction Book of the Year at the ABIA Awards, being shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger in the UK, and winning the Debut Crime and Readers’ Choice prizes at the Davitt Awards of Sisters in Crime Australia.  


Before it was published, Bublitz worked on BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME for several years, including living in New York City, “ostensibly for research” in 2015, and persisting through dozens of rejections. She finally completed the novel in the aftermath of her beloved father’s death in 2019, after returning to New Zealand from two decades in Melbourne. “I realised what I was trying to say, which is look at what we lose when this kind of crime happens,” she said. “I was going through my own experience of loss and thinking about mortality, and I changed some of the narrative and became a lot more clear on Alice’s journey.” 


Bublitz’s prizes include two trophies, $1,000 courtesy of WORD Christchurch, long-time partner of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, and a cash prize from the Ngaios. Her book is released in US hardcover in November.  



Janet: Before You Knew My Name will be published in the U.S. later this year. Don't miss it!