14 October 2023

Review: WAKE, Shelley Burr

  •  this edition published by Hachette Australia 2022
  • 363 pages
  • ISBN 9-780733-647826
  • winner CWA Debut Dagger 2019

Synopsis (publisher)

A Top Ten bestseller, WAKE is a searing debut crime novel where the grief and guilt surrounding an unsolved disappearance still haunt a small farming community . . . and will ultimately lead to a reckoning.

Evelyn simply vanished.

The small town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of New South Wales. Once a thriving outback centre, this ghost town now has one sinister claim to fame: the still-unsolved disappearance of Evelyn McCreery nineteen years ago from the bedroom she shared with her twin sister.

Mina McCreery's life has been defined by the intense and ongoing public interest in her sister's case. Now a reclusive adult, Mina lives alone on her family's sunbaked, destocked sheep farm. The million-dollar reward her mother established to solve the disappearance has never been paid out.

Enter Lane Holland, a private investigator who dropped out of the police academy to earn a living cracking cold cases. Lane has his eye on the unclaimed money, but he also has darker motivations.

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 set things right. 

My Take

Lane Holland, private investigator, comes to Nannine to see if he can talk to Mina McCreery about the disappearance of her twin sister nineteen years before. He has done his homework and finds her fairly easily at the general store. But she doesn't, not surprisingly, doesn't want to talk to him. Lane also tries to talk to locals, but they are as reticent as Mina. So Lane uses plan B. He investigates another missing girl, the sister of a friend of Mina's, and her he eventually has some success.

The novel carefully takes readers over what happened nineteen years earlier, and then what has happened to Mina's family since. 

On the surface Lane appears to be mainly interested in the million dollar reward that Mina's mother established in a trust fund over a decade earlier. But what he doesn't reveal is his ulterior motive, that he suspects that he already knows who was responsible for the 9 year old's disappearance.

A very atmospheric book. The Australian setting comes through strongly. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8 

About the author

Shelley Burr is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger award with Wake, an alumni of the ACT Writer's Centre Hardcopy program (2018) and a Varuna fellow. When not writing she works at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. She lives in Canberra, but grew up splitting her time between Newcastle and Glenrowan, where her father's family are all sheep farmers. WAKE is Shelley's first novel.

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