Dead and Gone, Sherryl Clark
DEAD AND GONE is the 2nd in the Judi Westerholme series, following on from TRUST ME, I'M DEAD. There are some events in the earlier book that would be useful to know about before starting this one, although it's not absolutely vital - there should be enough context to keep you moving forward with what's a really good plot, peopled by very real characters.
When I reviewed the first book I did say:
"There's a good, clever, plot at the heart of everything, and pace is never sacrificed to personal or character development. There's menace aplenty and it's a real page turner."
Could apply here as well really, when in this outing we move from inner Melbourne suburbs to her country town location in Victoria where Judi is now the manager of the local pub, and primary carer for her orphaned niece (how that came about is one of those things that the first book will explain fully). Life seemed to be settling into a nice routine for Judi and her niece relatively quickly as they sort out the major challenges life has dealt them, when along comes another one. This time tragedy strikes Judi's boss and pub owner, Macca, who is brutally murdered and dumped at the back of the pub on a busy night when they are all working there. As you'll quickly come to realise, Judi's not one for sitting back and letting the cops get on with it, particularly when she really questions whether the big-town cops know what they are doing. She does her own digging, and the more she digs the bigger the hole she's trapping herself in starts to become. Not helped when Melbourne homicide assistance turns out to be the same love-interest she encountered when her brother was killed in the first novel.
It's worth noting that the author has expressed a real fondness for the character she's created in Judi. Matter-of-fact to the point of brusque, as grumpy as some of us aspire to on a daily basis, she's bloody-minded, determined, and resourceful along with it. She's also gloriously, unashamedly flawed, loyal to a T, questioning herself constantly, and uncomfortably attracted to the same cop that she sort of hooked up with, but not really, getting closer to it here, from the first novel. Also, as with the first novel, the balance between character development and plot is nicely done, you learn more about Judi by following her investigations and the progress of the case than you do in by being told about Judi. You actually learn quite a bit about all the characters in the same way - and they are a good mix of believable, suspicious, incomers and locals, known quantities and absolute mysteries.
This is a series that has a lot of potential. It's really good, character based crime fiction, that doesn't stint on plot.
There's nothing more dangerous than revenge.
Judi Westerholme has been through it. Brave and strong-willed, she's just about coping in her new role as foster parent to her orphaned niece, taking a job at the local pub to help make ends meet. Then the pub's landlord and Judi's friend, army veteran Pete 'Macca' Maccasfield, is murdered, and her world is suddenly turned upside down.
Despite warnings from the city police to keep out of it, Judi can't help but get involved in the search for Macca's killer. But she soon becomes deeply entangled with some ruthlessly dangerous men. She must act fast and think smart to work out what they want - before anyone else gets hurt...
Long buried secrets resurface in Sherryl Clark's pacey crime novel that pushes Judi Westerholme to her limits to protect the people she loves most.