Review: Wake by Shelley Burr


Title: Wake

Author: Shelley Burr

Published: 27th April 2022, Hachette Australia

Status: Read April 2022, Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:


Wake, which won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019, is a gripping crime novel from first time author, Shelley Burr.

Wilhelmina ‘Mina’ McCreery was nine years old when her twin sister vanished from their family farm in remote NSW. Nearly two decades later, the odd circumstances of Evelyn’s disappearance continue to haunt Mina, and she lives and works at the family farm, a virtual recluse.

Lane Holland makes his living as a private investigator, and with a younger sister who has just started university to support, the two million dollar reward on offer to solve the mystery of Evelyn’s fate is a challenge he can’t ignore, especially when it may also provide information he needs.

Wake offers a taut, well-crafted mystery that centres on the cold case involving Evelyn McCreery disappearance, but also explores the themes of family, trauma, grief, guilt, and the legacy of violence.

Mina is a sympathetic character, the trauma of her sisters disappearance, her mother’s subsequent neglect and notoriety, and the judgement of community and strangers alike, has led her to become an introvert. It’s not surprising that Mina reflexively dismisses Lane initially, and remains guarded even as she begins to hope he may find the answers that have eluded her.

Lane is determined to solve the mystery of Evelyn’s disappearance, and while he’s content for others to believe the reward is his only incentive, he a connection to the case and a hidden motive, adding an effective twist to the story. Lane works hard to earn Mina’s trust, accepting an unexpected challenge she throws at him involving another missing child, but as the pair begin to work together, he starts to feel guilty about the secret he is keeping.

I quickly became absorbed in this story, invested in the characters, and the growing tension as secrets were revealed. Clever plotting kept me guessing as to the resolution of the mystery, and Wake concludes with an extraordinary confrontation that is both harrowing and satisfying.

Atmospheric, with complex characters, and an intriguing, layered plot Wake is a compelling novel, and a fine addition to the rapidly growing genre of Australian rural noir.


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