By Lisa Walker
Publisher/Year: Wakefield Press/2021
Olivia Grace, recently retired teen PI, has her priorities sorted. Pass first-year law, look after her little sister, and persuade her parents to come back from a Nepali monastery to resume … well, parenting. But after Olivia’s friend Abbey goes missing in Byron Bay, a short drive from Olivia’s Gold Coast home, she can’t sit back and study Torts. It’s time to go undercover as hippie-chick Nansea, in hippie-chic Byron Bay, hub of influencers and international tourism, and home of yoga, surfing and wellness culture.
Olivia’s looking for answers, with the help of her stash of disguises, the PI skills her irresistible ex-boss Rosco taught her – and a nose for trouble. Her suspects include a hardcore surfer who often argued with Abbey in the surf, a charismatic cult leader and an acrobatic botany student.
And then there’s Rosco, officially assigned to the case, and proving impossible to avoid.
Lisa Walker’s second Olivia Grace novel is another rip-roaring excursion into madcap sunshine noir, with nods to Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, and a flavour of Veronica Mars meets Elmore Leonard.
Reviewer: Narrelle Harris
Olivia Grace is an 18 year old with a lot on her plate. Her parents have gone on a spiritual quest to Nepal and won’t come home; she’s staying with her ukulele-playing grandmother who has a very busy life of her own; she’s responsible for her adored 7 year old sister; and she’s studying law at a Gold Coast university. Olivia had already stepped away from her work as a PI with her friend Rosco, but now her best friend, Abbey, has gone missing in Byron Bay.
Unable to face Rosco, who has ghosted her since she had to depart his agency to manage the rest of her life, Olivia begins to investigate, in the persona of surfer-chick Nansea. Unfortunately for Olivia, Rosco has also been engaged to find out what happened to Abbey.
Trouble is My Business has a perfect balance of teen-protagonist angst, clever sleuthing, lively characters, vibrant setting and snappy pace. Olivia finds a cluster of suspects wrapped up in the surf scene, real estate development, Byron’s hippydom and eco-warrior types. Some of those suspects are intriguingly charismatic and distractingly attractive, keeping Olivia on her toes.
Olivia works marvellously, battling as she is to meet the needs of her family as well as her own future, while dealing with recent heartbreak and fears for her friend, with whom she’s recently fallen out. She’s smart and flawed, and while not all of her decisions are wise ones, she’s easy to sympathise with in her struggles to find balance in her life.
While those struggles sound like a grim recipe, Trouble is My Business is light, fun and often funny. The book is peppered with deftly deployed Sherlock Holmes quotes (a choice that will always win my heart) as well as references to Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. The mystery is resolved, and by the final page, Olivia’s life has become a lot less tangled. It’s engaging, entertaining and makes me want to visit Byron Bay as soon as these darned borders re-open.