Murder With The Lot by Sue Williams

Author: Sue Williams
Publisher: Text Publishing
Review By: Ann Byrne and Sue Turnbull
Book Synopsis: “If you wanted to hide somewhere there’s no way I’d choose Rusty Bore. A hundred and forty seven residents and everyone single one of them watching. No one here forgets. Especially your mistakes”

Rusty Bore is a fictious place, somewhere north of Wycheproof says new crime writer, Sue Williams. “Murder with the Lot” refers to Cass Tuplin’s business of a fish and chip shop which along with the hardware store is the Rusty Bore CBD.

When reading a new author your expectations are unclear but having worked with Sue some years ago I was looking forward to seeing how she approached the crime, the character development and the setting.

I am pleased to report that Sue has given us a marvellous read, the lead character Cass is a mixture of curiousity with hint of innocence that draws you in. Her two sons, one an environmentalist and the other the local policeman provide a great contrast and allude to all those things we know about the relationship between younger and old siblings.

“Brad’s my youngest, a certified organic. Vegetarian and fried of the earth, albeit with a weakness for the smell of frying bacon.”

Cass’s relationship with the General Store Owner Vern, even though relationship is not quiet how Cass would describe it, has points of great humour as well as essential connections in the story. It is a somewhat typical country relationship, quiet testy, but Vern knows all that is happening in Rusty Bore and his note book provides information that Cass needs even if acquired in an unconventional manner.

We learn a lot about living in the country from the competition between towns, the effect of a dust storm, the knowledge of everyone’s business and the need to work together to get things done.

There is a good pace to “Murder with the Lot” as the reader is drawn into Cass’s search for the killer in a country town where everyone knows your business – and remembers every mistake in your past. The plot is tight, fast and there are many laughs – ” what sort of twit would confuse a dead women with a sheep? Number of legs for a start!”

Let’s hope that Murder with the Lot is the first of many capers for Cass. Review by Ann Byrne

Following Reveiw by Sue Turnbull has previously appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

How do you like your crime? Dark and broody or cheerful and chirpy?

If the latter, then Sue Williams has concocted just the right genre cocktail for you. Here’s the recipe: take two parts spunky female heroine of a ‘certain’ age (with or without a cat) who is still up for ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ might involve. Add one part ‘quirky’ regional setting studded with charming and eccentric odd balls. Finish with twist of plot and a dash of peril and serve in the bath, on the beach or any place where entertaining reading matter is required.
Murder with the Lot is Sue Willams’ first book and it’s hard not to like. The recently widowed Cass, like Scout, is an engaging narrator whose Miss Marpleish snooping has her scudding around the back blocks of rural Victoria in an old but serviceable sky blue Toyota Carolla. Much to the chagrin of her elder son, Leading Senior Constable Drew Tuplin, Cass keeps stumbling across dead bodies which have a tendency to dematerialise by the time Drew can get there. This leads to some significant family tension.

Plot-wise, Murder With the Lot is unnecessarily convoluted, and like one of Cass’s Chiko Rolls, a bit hard to digest. What does work are the descriptions of life in a rural township on the verge of extinction; the kinds of small town one might drive through going somewhere else fast while wondering how anyone could possibly survive there.

Once a busy farming community, the fictional Rusty Bore comprises only two streets, Best Street ‘which some argue is Rusty Bore’s only street’ and Second Street. The hardware store has long since shut down, ‘its dusty windows covered in graffiti’. The old town hall is ‘propped up along one side with steel girders’. Rusty Bore – the ‘original home of the Mallee Farm days’ is now Rusty Bore – ‘home to a row of wheat silos and derelict railway sidings’. Cass may be an indomitable heroine armed with a sawn-off star picket, but her way of life is doomed.

Despite the poignant backdrop, Murder with the Lot is for the most part up-beat and decidedly chirpy. While things don’t turn out quite the way Cass had planned, I’m sure she’ll be back for another round.