Disclaimer's First: I'm one of the publisher's minions, and whilst I don't always participate in considering possible submissions, in this case I was fortunate enough to read an early draft - and well did a bit of barracking.
So think of this as less of a review and more a restating of the reasons why I was really pleased that Clan Destine Press decided to publish TELL ME WHY.
There's been a tendency in Australian Crime Fiction to skew the use of rural settings to historical, sometimes the amateur detective, and all too frequently, the barking mad. Anybody who follows my reviews will know I've got a serious allergy to the mad bad toothless lunatic lurking behind the gum trees just waiting to have away with the poor city based non-suspecting types. It's insulting, but more so it's a cheap shot. TELL ME WHY doesn't do that. There's a realistic portrayal of country life built into the story here with a missing farmer, a country town that's real (albeit one that's now a very popular destination for non-locals to take up residence). Even that's not over-played however, and the balance between locals and incomers fair.
Then we've got the different personality types - the strong-willed principled city girl who finds herself on a quest for answers and running away from her present. It feels real, and even though it's a portrayal that's been done before, there's personality in Georgie and enough to make people want to cheer for her. In the same way the strong, almost silent, local country maverick cop John could be a cliché but he's not. His concern for local residents, his bafflement over the raising of a teenage daughter all works, and is strong enough to lift the expected elements.
And to be fair, there's only so many different ways that crime fiction characters can pan out - although in this case, the pairing of the amateur (writer) and the professional (cop) is believable, as is the instant dislike, as is the grudging acceptance, as is the resolution.
It's always a good feeling to see a local debut novel with considerable promise and there's an even better feeling when you've been privileged to see it so very early in its evolution. Here's hoping Sandi Wallace writes another in the series, and readers out there are as excited about TELL ME WHY as much as we all are.