HALF PAST DEAD - Jane Clifton
Having originally read this when it came out in paperback form in 2002, it was no chore to re-read ... oh good grief ... 11 YEARS LATER. Now I've got an excuse for not remembering the entire story!
It's always interesting to see how something stands up over the years since publication, allowing of course, for changes in technology, fashions, attitudes and social norms. In HALF PAST DEAD, there's not a lot of need for too much allowance though as there's a timelessness to the central themes. Marriages that are suddenly fraying at the seams, cut-throat business shenanigans and people at their best and worst. Ronnie's a strong central character, very real, slightly idiotic and extremely resourceful all at the same time. Whilst the focus is on her, and a lot of the problems or doubts in her life are seen through her eyes, there is a supporting cast some of whom, are equally well done. In particular this is a book with some vivid female characters - from the receptionist at work, through to the ex-girlfriend of Ronnie's husband Boyd. Even the local doctor has a good cameo appearance. It also doesn't hurt that this is often funny - not hysterical laughing sort of funny maybe, but clever and smile inducing more than once.
The mystery is quite an interesting idea - as for much of the book it's all about the supposed death and definite disappearance of a business colleague - or at least Ronnie saw what she thought was a dead body, and he's definitely not at work anymore. This is further complicated by the possibility of business espionage, a lot of inter-office romancing and relationships and a hefty dose of secrecy and over the top personalities.
This version of romance (with the errors and the missteps and the crashing around making mistakes) is my sort of romance I will admit, but it's also nicely balanced with an unusual sort of a murder mystery. HALF PAST DEAD was a really enjoyable read 11 years ago, and it was again now. It was so fantastic to find local stories, written by local writers all that time ago and that feeling just simply doesn't go away.
(Disclaimer: I wrangle web and ebook things for Clan Destine Press but the editorial side remains a slightly confusing mystery that happens "over there").
Ronnie Collins is an up and coming fashion designer, a devoted mother and the proud owner of a working marriage with Boyd.
So waking up naked and hung-over in a colleague's bed doesn't seem like an ideal life plan. Even before she finds the colleague's corpse on the front doormat.
From there Ronnie's work life and home life just gets more complicated.
Does her boss Dexter know more of what's going on? How is he involved?
Where is Lawrence - in Thailand or in a car-boot?
Is husband Boyd re-igniting his fascination for old flame Katie?
And should Ronnie have taken up more of her mother's advice?