Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Never Trust a Dead Man" is a solid mystery.

I've been reading Never Trust a Deadman by  Vivian Vande Velde lately. It's part of my effort to clean out my personal queue so I can focus more on the reviewer one. I wasn't disappointed; this is a great book. It's basic premise is a whodunit; Selwygn investigates the murder of a fellow named Farold because he was accused of the murder himself. What attracted my attention is that this is fantasy style whodunit; Sewlwygn revived Farold in the former of a bat to aid his investigation by making a deal with a witch. I find it the mark of a great mystery that its appeal is not solely in suspense and the identity of the culprit and this has much more besides.


The story begins in-media res with a mob coming to arrest Selwyn. I like this as a starting place because, for all the reader knows, Selwyn might have done it. As the evidence mounts, I found myself siding with the mob against him because it is a convincing case. This makes them seem less like assholes despite their behavior. On the other hand, it is a scary thought if he is innocent because there's nothing he can do about his kangaroo trial and sentencing.

Another thing I like about the start is that is takes its time. 70 pages before the premise is fulfilled 'investigating a murder with a bat'. The whole book is 194 pages. I like it because there is no rushing and everything is fully set up for the main event.

Overall I like how the mystery developed and information was revealed. Selwyn keeps a running tally of suspects and their motivations.  There's one Contrived Coincidence that stretches my Suspension of Disbelief but other than I don't see holes in the story.


This is why I like the book so much; characters and their interaction. I did not read this book to find out the killer's identity but to watch the leads interact on their way to their conclusion. Their bickering cooperation is funny and I enjoyed seeing them develop as the town itself was developed through retrospective information. 

From the back cover I was afraid Selwyn would be a This Loser Is You sort of guy but he's not like that at all; the book spends zero pages making him relatable or 'average' or anything like that.

Twists of character were also a delight. This is the kind of story that opens up a can of worms and makes other things come to light as Selwyn digs deeper for the one truth he's interested in.


This story is written from Selwyn's prospective and in limited third person. This is a good tone for this book because the reader sees the world as Selwyn perceives it but without the self-conscious 'I' getting in the way. It works because it is consistent. 
I didn't see anything in the way of grammar or spelling errors.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Never Trust a Dead Man" a B+

Click here for the next review (which was a review request) Blade Song

Click here for the previous review (which wasn't a review request) Eragon

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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