In the fictional town of Rusty Bore, Victoria, (population 147) Cass Tuplin runs one of two remaining retail outlets, namely the fish and chip shop. When a dodgy looking young man comes looking for a place to stay, where he can write his book, Cass somewhat reluctantly hands over the keys to her friend Ernie’s shack (Ernie having been placed in a nursing home just recently). But, based on a mixture of her own wild imaginings and the town rumour mill, Cass soon has second thoughts about having possibly let the shack to the wrong sort of person. But before she can evict the new tenant she discovers the body of a woman which goes missing before her policeman son has a chance to see it. With her nearest and dearest thinking she’s losing her marbles and Cass being the ultimate in interfering busy bodies mayhem quickly ensues.
With tongue firmly planted in-cheek Sue Williams has delivered a very Australian novel with loads of chuckles amidst the aforementioned mayhem. Although Cass’ home town and its nearest neighbours are fictional they’re recognisable as not too far from the truth, even to someone who only visits such places occasionally (though all my childhood summer holidays were spent in a town with eery similarities). Cass’ first-person narration with its spot-on observations about the area and its locals and some first-rate dialogue provide an authentically Australian sensibility and are the highlight of the book.
Cass is very funny at times. She is also very annoying at times. Alongside the nicely dry humour and gung-ho attitude she is over-involved in the lives of her two adult sons to a point that would have had me contemplating murder if she were my mother.but I know this doesn’t make her unrealistic. It did make my teeth grate on occasion though which is probably a reflection of my own fierce independence and an entirely different kind of relationship with my own mother. That aspect of her personality aside I did like Cass with her laconic, self deprecating voice and the ensemble cast of characters who surround her are, collectively, a treat (with my personal favourite being her youngest son’s on/off girlfriend Miranda who has a penchant for ferrets and blunt relationship advice).
MURDER WITH THE LOT is the kind of light, fun crime fiction that we don’t seem to produce a lot of in Australia and it’s a fine example of the sub-genre. Of course it veers into far-fetched territory a time or three but that’s part of the fun with this kind of book, and there are some nicely poignant moments which ground the book a little and provide a nice contrast. It’s a nicely paced, gently humoured romp of a tale. Most enjoyable.
Sue Williams is a science and travel writer and a chartered accountant who also holds a PhD in marine biology. She has had many articles published but MURDER WITH THE LOT his her first novel.
This is the fifth novel I’ve read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013
Publisher: Tex 
Length: 294 pages
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