Wake by Shelley Burr – Review

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By Sandra Callard

Wake is the debut novel of author Shelley Burr, who lives and works in Canberra, capital city of Australia. The letters which give the book its name stand for “Wednesday Addams Killed Evie” but they are, however, of little importance to the story in this book, which is set in a lonely outpost in Central New South Wales.

Mina McCreery is the only child of a rich family. She lives alone in a large compound of her family’s now destocked farm, near the small town of Nannine, and is massively affected by the loss of her twin sister, Evelyn, when the pair were aged ten. Evelyn vanished one night from the home of her mother, father and sister nineteen years ago and, despite the many long searches for her, she has never been found. Enter a man by the name of Lane Holland who is an experienced and successful private investigator, and is offering to head a further search for Evelyn. This he does and the following upheavals and unexpected revelations are the stuff of exactly what a good mystery novel should be made of.

Lane Holland is an accomplished and thorough private investigator and he slowly achieves the trust of Mina McCreery. This trust is volatile and uncertain and leads both of them into faltering and obsessive memories of their individual younger selves, memories which they have tried to blot out, but which result in the opposite. The author’s writing is exceptionally clear cut and unhindered, with a smooth and instant perception of thought and action, and is very pleasing to read.

wake shelley burr book review cover“Brilliantly executed”

The Australianised prose contains many colloquialisms which are unfamiliar to the British tongue. Many give no clue in their form or spelling as to what they mean, but are made sense of by the surrounding words and actions. I think this is the first book I have read that is set totally in Australia, and the copious use of these local words add an appropriate sense of setting to the story, which I welcomed.

This is a book which becomes more compulsive to the reader as they absorb the story. They will become totally immersed in the unexpected, the horrific and the downright clever twists that the search for Evelyn reveals. The tension between Mina and Lane is beautifully written, and the rising fears, hopes and finally truths that are eventually exposed are brilliantly executed with a profound and discerning hand. I guarantee you will feel exhausted and satisfied as the end of this remarkable book is reached.

Wake has more twists and turns than the usual novel and it is very tempting to make your own suppositions as to the end of the book, but it has a brilliant denouement. In fact the book itself is an impressive achievement for a debut novel and I’ll be searching out whatever Shelley Burr writes next.

‘Wake’ by Shelley Burr is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99 hardback


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