Trust Me, I'm Dead - Sherryl Clark
Shortlisted for the 2018 CWA Debut Daggar, TRUST ME, I'M DEAD, is the first crime novel from New Zealand born, Australian resident writer Sherryl Clark, best known for her children's writing, although I understand there's now a sequel to this novel planned for this year. Any possible sequel should be regarded as a very good thing, whenever it is released.
Judi Westerholme leads a secluded life, out in a rural area, working her vegetable patch, and mostly minding her own business, she's a woman with a past of her own. She hasn't seen her brother for years, having been heartily disappointed with his drug addiction and life choices, so she's surprised to find that it looks like he turned his life around. He's been holding down a job, bought a house, got married, they had a baby. Which makes the fact that he was shot dead in what looks like a drug deal gone wrong, his wife gone missing, seem even more inexplicable.
As their mother lives in a nursing home and isn't quite with it anymore, Judi is called back to Melbourne, to arrange his funeral and sort out his affairs, hoping that his wife will turn up eventually. Only to find a weird set of circumstances involving their grandmother's home, a missing toolbox, questions about his lifestyle, and a policeman investigating his death. To say nothing of a baby that his will has left in Judi's care - the last thing in this world she thought she'd be lumbered with.
There is so much potential in this novel it's hard to know where to start. I did see a summary somewhere where the author has great fondness for the character Judi Westerholme, a wonderfully grumpy, matter of fact, determined, bloody minded sort of a woman, secretly modelled on a young Judi Dench, and it's not hard to see how you could have enormous time for that person. She's resourceful without being super-woman, she's flawed without wallowing in it, she's strong and grumpy and knows how to take bloody minded to the edge of bloody annoying without tipping over. Even a bit of unresolved sexual tension with the investigating police officer manages to avoid the dreaded inevitability.
Alongside good characters, there's a good sense of place, with most of the action taking place in inner Melbourne suburbs, although a brief visit to a medium sized town that I know pretty well these days made me laugh at the observations of lack of activity after dark. 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.
TRUST ME, I'M DEAD was sadly one of those books that I'd missed much commentary about when it was shortlisted. Hope that changes, and I hope we're not waiting too long for the sequel.
She hasn't seen her brother in years. Now, he's dead.
When Judi Westerholme finds out her estranged brother has been murdered, she assumes it's connected to his long term drug addiction. Returning home, she is shocked to discover he had been clean for years, had a wife – now missing – a child and led a respectable life. But if he had turned his life around, why was he killed in a drug deal shooting? And where is his wife?
Desperate to know what really happened, Judi sets out to uncover the truth, even though it means confronting her own traumatic past. But she's not the only one looking for answers...