Live and Let Fry, Sue Williams
There are times in life when you just need something frivolous, fun and slightly tongue in cheek. Australian readers are lucky to have the Cass Tuplin series from Sue Williams to fulfil that need.
The tongue in cheek bit is the important thing to remember when it comes to Cass Tuplin books - from the titles: MURDER WITH THE LOT / DEAD MEN DON'T ORDER FLAKE and now LIVE AND LET FRY you can kind of gather there's a good old-style fish and chip shop somewhere in the mix here. In this case in the fictional Victorian Mallee town of Rusty Bore, just down the road from Hustle, not far from Sheep Dip, and a few hours straight road travelling through Ouyen to Mildura. Some of us have probably taken an educated guess at the likely inspiration and one or two of us may have actually ordered a minimum chips in such a locale. Cass Tuplin is most definitely not a licensed investigator, she's a good neighbour, an inveterate sticky-nose with a sideline in caring about people, mother of two sons (one uptight cop / one laid back environmentalist) and she's most definitely not cut from the same cloth as a well-known ex-proprietor of a similar establishment from Queensland.
You expect with a Cass Tuplin book that you're going to get a hefty dose of daft fun and it's served up neatly wrapped in butchers paper in LIVE AND LET FRY. It would help a lot if you've read the two earlier books as the cast of eccentric locals is important, and their back stories interwined to the point of knotted. You might want to take a seat for a minute as this is going to get complicated but Vern (who runs the convenience store in Rusy Bore, is Cass's closest neighbour, once was suitor, now besotted with the new woman in Sheep Dip, who has opened a bookshop in an old church (why nobody can quite fathom)), wants Cass to help get to the bottom of odd phone calls and dumped mutilated rats on his Joanne's doorstep. Which leads Cass via Sheep Dip and a tattooed hitman, to a private detective named Mel, a property developer and his chauffeur/helicopter pilot, a missing pump leading to lost love, Mildura based environmental consultants, a dead bloke in a house fire, a dead woman in a river, a casino and harbour development, some odd photographs, a residence attached to a fish and chip shop filled with ferrets (not good for Health and Safety), her policeman son's marriage collapsing, his complicit boss, a long-distance love affair in trouble, a hefty belt over the head in a toilet block in Ouyen, a bus crash in Bolivia and a paddle steamer. And some solid connections between them all. I kid you not, and all in pretty rapid succession so you'd better be paying attention.
Needless to say madcap, fast paced, silly and fun. All delivered in Cass's own personal style which is a sort of combination caring, blithely unaware, manipulative, helpful, blundering, clever, self-deprecating, self-aware and blissfully unself-aware. Simultaneously.
This is one of those series that has developed into something delightfully entertaining, Cass's tone and style have matured into just the right level of personal daft, and the eccentricities are nicely balanced against a plot that's actually quite believable. Definitely one for fans of something that will make them laugh, and for those of us who live around the same locale, one that will make you wonder whether or not this author has been doing some ear-wigging around the local fish and chip shop.
For Cass Tuplin, proprietor of the Rusty Bore Takeaway (and definitely not an unlicensed private investigator), it’s weird enough that her neighbour Vern has somehow acquired a lady friend. But then he asks Cass to look into the case of the dead rats someone’s dumped on Joanne’s doorstep.
She’s barely started when Joanne goes missing, leaving hints of an unsavoury past. Then a private investigator from Melbourne turns up asking questions about Joanne’s involvement in a fatal house fire—and before you can say ‘unauthorised investigation’ Cass is back on the case.