Merle Nygate has won the inaugural Little, Brown Award for crime fiction at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Nygate received £3,000 for the manuscript for her espionage novel, A Righteous Spy, which judges said was "outstanding".
Little, Brown publisher Clare Smith, one of the prize judges, said: "The standard of writing was incredibly high across the board and the competition was a pleasure to judge. Merle’s novel was outstanding, with strong writing, great characterisation and a plot that drove the narrative forward. Many congratulations to her, and to all the other students."
Henry Sutton, course director for the Crime MA at UEA, added: "This is a huge achievement for Merle, though very well deserved. The Crime MA seeks to push boundaries and grab attention for the excellence and ambition of the work being produced. We are hugely grateful for the support and recognition from Little, Brown."
Nygate said she was "thrilled" to have won, crediting UEA's new Masters in Crime Fiction for having helped her to improve her craft. She graduated this year as part of the university's first cohort on the two-year, part time MA, which launched in September 2015.
"I’m thrilled to be the winner of the competition and particularly pleased that my espionage novel, A Righteous Spy was chosen. Since Glasnost, spy fiction has been a niche genre but now, with election meddling and a political landscape teetering on tectonic plates there are many anxieties for fiction writers to explore and try to understand," she said.
"The Crime Fiction MA course at UEA gave me the opportunity to do an immense amount of research into both the spy novel and espionage non-fiction. It gave me the time to find my story, develop the characters and improve my craft. I’m immensely grateful for the prize and for all the support from my tutors and the cohort; they helped me to write the book I wanted to write."
Charlie King, Little, Brown Book Group managing director, added: "Little, Brown is proud to be associated with this award, and with the terrific course that is the UEA crime MA. New talent is the lifeblood of our industry, and from an excellent field we are delighted to see Merle Nygate emerge the winner."
UEA's Masters in Crime Fiction runs alongside its Creative Writing MAs in Prose Fiction, Poetry, Scriptwriting, and Biography and Creative Non-Fiction.