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Book DetailsISBN: 9781922079787
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Book Review: Murder With The Lot by Sue Williams - Reviewed by CloggieA (26 May 2016)
Murder With The Lot is the first book in the Cass Tuplin murder mystery series by Australian science and travel writer, chartered accountant, marine biologist and author, Sue Williams. Rusty Bore, pop. 147, is a dying town in the Victorian Mallee. Almost two years a widow, the owner of Rusty Bore Take Away is in the prime of her life, or so Cass Tuplin, mother of two adult sons, tells herself (and others) on a regular basis, especially when it’s suggested her standards for a prospective partner might be set too high.
But she is distracted from all this when a slightly oily-looking young man in a suit, going by the name of Clarence….”Brown”, comes into the Take Away. “Skinny and slope-shouldered, he was holding tight to a briefcase, a scruffy-looking number with one of those combination locks near the handle….he looked like an accountant who’d been shoved backwards through his ledger…”. Clarence orders a burger, drips blood from an arm enclosed in a ripped and tattered sleeve onto her floor, expresses concern that someone might be tailing him, mumbles about writing a best-selling book and offers Cass an obscenely large sum for the rental of her old friend, Ernie’s shack up by Lake Perry.
The next morning, Cass gives directions for the shack to an expensively-dressed woman and her granddaughter, who are apparently family in search of said Clarence. But, plagued by misgivings about this hasty rental, Cass heads north to return the rental fee, only to find the woman’s body on the edge of Lake Perry, a fatal gunshot wound conspicuous on her forehead. When she rings Leading Senior Constable Dean Tuplin to report this murder, he is sceptical (possibly with good reason), and by the time he arrives, at the end of a dust storm, the body is nowhere to be found.
So begins this lively tale of murder, blackmail, arson, dog bites, accidental shootings, rumballs, trust funds and take away food. Williams sets her scene with consummate ease: the dust, the salt lake, the small-town mindset are all expertly conveyed. The novel features a cast of quirky characters: a masseuse with a bunch of pet ferrets; a one-armed general store owner with ear for gossip; an internet-surfing care-home resident with a taste for movies; a pedantic cop more interested in revenue-raising than clues; and an unemployed vegetarian environmental activist trying to give up bacon.
Cass herself has a wild imagination that leads her to jump to (often erroneous) conclusions on a bare minimum of facts, causing embarrassment and irritation to one son and engendering concern for her welfare in the other. Although “…you might be misguided, reckless and naïve, but you’re definitely courageous, Mum” and her heart does seem to be in the right place.
Williams’s character descriptions are a delight: “She was young, anywhere from thirteen to eighteen. Her face had that perilous blend of innocence and over-confidence, a girl her parents would never stop worrying about” and “The tall man got out first, his calf-length leather coat flapping around him in the wind. That’d have to be a two-cow coat, I thought, he must have been close to seven foot” are examples.
The plot is original and clever: murder victims and suspects begin to accumulate, with twists and red herrings keeping the pages turning. There is plenty of laugh-out-loud humour and Williams manages to include a plug for marine biology and for Aussie crime fiction: Arthur Upfield’s Death of A Lake gets a mention. A brilliant debut novel that will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel. 5 stars
Sue Williams is the author of a crime series set in Rusty Bore, population 147. Sue was raised in country Victoria and hotly denies this provided any inspiration for her writing. She is a science and travel writer and a chartered accountant who also holds a PhD in marine biology. These days, Sue lives in Melbourne with her husband. Her previous two Cass Tuplin books are Murder with the Lot and Dead Men Don't Order Flake.
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