Book Review – June 2022 – Wake – Shelley Burr

So – yet another book from Down Under! This “Outback Noir” is really becoming a big thing, isn’t it?

It is, and it’s no surprise when you come across books like this – and a debut at that! And I hadn’t realised until now that this was the Winner of CWA Dagger for Debut Crime Fiction…and once you’ve read a chapter or two of the book, that won’t be a surprise at all! It absolutely blew me away, and to be honest it doesn’t read like a debut – you feel like you’re in the hands of a well-established author…it’s that good! Shelley Burr is a name to watch, that’s for sure!

Where is it set, then?

It’s set in a small, dying outback town called Nannine. About an hour’s drive outside it, on a large sheep farm eighteen years previously, one of the most notorious missing person cases in Australia took place. A nine-year-old girl called Evie McCreery was kidnapped – taken from the bedroom where she was asleep with her non-identical twin, Mina, and never seen again. It’s constantly debated on internet chatrooms (we see some of the Reddit-type posts at the beginning of chapters), but there’s been no answer to the whereabouts of Evie, or to what happened to her – despite a colossal reward, which was doubled by the McCreery family. Before she died of cancer, Mrs McCreery was a constant campaigner for answers as to what happened to her daughter – on TV, in newspapers, magazines, and eventually writing a book, the funds from which financed the McCreery half of the reward.

So where exactly are we at when the book opens?

A new face appears, hoping to be able to finally put the case to bed. Lane Holland needs the reward money, as he wants to finance his younger sister’s Lynnie’s university course so she doesn’t have to work at all sorts of menial jobs, which would end up eating into her study time, as he knows from personal experience – it’s how he financed his Criminology degree. (I’ve been there – just after moving into a flat in Glasgow’s West End I found a job waitressing in a pizzeria on Gibson Street, for £12 a night. What was meant to be two nights a week soon became five, and I was very popular with my three flatmates, too, as when I left at 11 pm the chef would insist I took a pizza – a meal was a perk of the job. I used to see my flatmates hanging out the window as I walked home with the box! Happy days…anyway, I digress…!)

But Lane is no stranger to crime solving, is he? Hasn’t he already had some success solving cold cases?

He has, and has already received two rewards for solving cold cases involving missing girls or young women. However, they weren’t nearly so high profile as the McCreery case – and nor were the rewards so substantial.

It takes a fair bit of time to build up trust with Mina who, understandably, is tired of gawkers and rubberneckers, and people who think she – or one of her family – may know more than they’ve hitherto revealed about Evie’s death. Unlike her late mother, Mina and her father don’t court the media, and do what they can to get by in farming, as well as a call centre job working from home Mina has, advising other farmers, many in despair at the state of the industry, on behalf of the Australian Government.

What did you enjoy so much about the book?

I really liked the characters, and how they were developed – Mina and Lane are both essentially loners, and somewhat distrustful of others due to events in their childhoods (Mina’s we obviously know about; we learn more about Lane’s background as the book moves on.) It’s very well-paced, gradually drawing you in so you want to learn more and more about Mina, Lane, and, of course, what did happen on that fateful night that was to change so many lives forever.

There are also some fantastic twists, although I’m giving nothing away! Shelley Burr is clearly going to be a name to watch – and with the buzz around so-called Outback Noir at the moment, she couldn’t have picked a better time to release her first novel…and I, for one, can’t wait to read more of her work!

One of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

I read this book courtesy of Pigeonhole Post.

BLURB: The tiny outback town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of Australia. Once a thriving center of stockyards and sheep stations, years of punishing drought have petrified the land and Nannine has been whittled down to no more than a stoplight, a couple bars, and a police stationAnd it has another, more sinister claim to fame: the still-unsolved disappearance of young Evelyn McCreery nineteen years ago.

Mina McCreery’s life has been defined by the intense public interest in her sister’s case–which is still a hot topic in true-crime chat rooms and on social media. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, Mina lives alone on her family’s sunbaked destocked sheep farm.

Enter Lane Holland, a young private investigator who dropped out of the police academy to earn a living cracking cold cases. Before she died, Mina’s mother funded a million-dollar reward for anyone who could explain how Evelyn vanished from her bed in the family’s farmhouse. The lure of cash has only increased public obsession with Evelyn and Mina–but yielded no answers.

Lane wins Mina’s trust when some of his more unconventional methods show promise. But Lane also has darker motivations, and his obsession with the search will ultimately risk both their lives–and yield shocking results.

Compulsively readable, with an unforgettable setting and cast of characters, WAKE is a powerful, unsparing story of how trauma ripples outward when people’s private tragedies become public property, and how it’s never too late for the truth to come out.