Lisa McInerney's tale of murder and misfits in post-crash Ireland The Glorious Heresies (John Murray), already shortlisted for this year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, is also on the shortlist for this year's Desmond Elliott Prize.
Galway-based McInerney is joined on the shortlist by Dublin-born Gavin McCrea who is shortlisted for Mrs Engels (Scribe), about Lizzie, the wife of the German philosopher Friedrich Engels. Also in the running is Julia Rochester whose The House at the Edge of the World - part mystery, part psychological drama - is published by Penguin.
The £10,000 prize rewards debut fiction.
As well as being in the running for the Baileys Women's Prize, McInerney's novel has also been longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2016 and the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. Chair of the judges Iain Pears said it was “no surprise” other major literary prizes had noticed McInerney’s talent, praising her “strong, complex working-class characters” and ability to “play with the reader’s emotions in an extraordinarily sophisticated way”. “
Meanwhile McCrea’s Victorian-era novel was dubbed “perhaps the most feminist novel we read for the prize”. It follows a woman torn between the “desire for independence and the pragmatic need to be taken care of”. Rochester’s The House at the Edge of the World, was commended for its “sense of place”, inspired by the author’s childhood in Devon.
Pears was joined on the judging panel by The Pool co-founder Sam Baker and Katy Guest, former literary editor of the Independent on Sunday.
He said: “These are hugely ambitious, complex, confident works by three extremely talented writers and it is wonderful that the Desmond Elliott Prize exists to help them reach the wide audience they so richly deserve. With the demise of the Guardian First Book Award, a prize like this is all the more important to new writers.
"There are titles we are all sad not to take further in this prize but we are sure we have selected three exceptional books from fully formed talents. They are all very different, but all absolutely meet the prize’s criteria of delivering a compulsive narrative, characters you can believe are real and brilliant, confident writing. These authors deliver all three in spades.”
The prize, now in its ninth year, is funded by the estate of the late agent and publisher Desmond Elliott, derived from his "passion for finding and nurturing new authors" and with a view to "propelling them to greater recognition and success".
Dallas Manderson, chairman of the prize trustees, added: “We are thrilled to present these outstanding titles in our search for this year’s best debut novel. The judges have done an admirable job selecting a shortlist from a longlist of huge variety in both style and scope. I believe Desmond Elliott would have thoroughly approved of this shortlist, and we all look forward to seeing which book ultimately takes the prize.”
The 2015 winner was Claire Fuller, author of the bestselling Our Endless Numbered Days (Fig Tree). Other past winners include Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen, Anjali Joseph, and Edward Hogan.
This year's winner will be revealed at a ceremony in London on 22nd June.