Book review: It Takes a Town by Aoife Clifford

Monday, April 1, 2024 Permalink

It Takes a Town by Aoife Clifford is the fourth book I’ve read by the Aussie author who I had the pleasure of meeting in person at a crime-writers festival in 2019. Her latest is a little slow to get started but ultimately offers up multiple twists and some perplexing moral dilemmas, but also (most importantly) poses a question that I reflected on in another review recently. Whether the actions of those involved actually made things worse or result in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Not specifically resulting from the death of a local celebrity here, but rather the subsequent disappearance of a young woman and resulting fall-out.

Book review: It Takes a Town by Aoife CliffordIt Takes a Town
by Aoife Clifford
Published by Ultimo Press
on 03/04/2024
Source: Ultimo Press
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1761152742

Everyone dies famous in a country town, but glamorous Vanessa Walton was a shining star. A celebrity since a television commercial when she was a child, Vanessa is back on the front page for all the wrong reasons; after a terrible storm she has been found dead at the bottom of her stairs.

At first her death seems to be a simple accident, but anonymous letters are discovered that suggest otherwise – and when 16-year-old Jasmine Landridge claims it is murder, she suddenly disappears. As the police begin to investigate, secrets are exposed and friendships unravel.

What happens to a community when murders and abductions sit alongside petty workmates, teenage tribulations and longstanding friendships? It will take a town to solve this crime, but what will be broken in the effort to piece together the truth?

There are a lot of characters introduced or referenced and I had a hard time getting some clear in my head – unsure if we’d met them yet or who they were. It might be a ‘me’ thing but I tend to panic a little when I’m reading and not following who’s who, mainly cos I pride myself in my whodunit skills 😉 so need to pick up on all clues proffered.

I also struggled with the transition from the prologue to the start of the book. In the opening pages we meet one of our narrators (Frankie) at a fundraiser where Vanessa is performing. But that ends quite abruptly and we’re introduced to police officer Carole, arriving in town following heavy rain and flooding. It might be because the prologue wasn’t labelled thus that I assumed the scenes followed directly on from the other.

It’s the weather however that seemingly caused Vanessa’s death as she’d tripped down the stairs (over a bucket catching water through a leaking roof). Initially it seems it’s just an accident, but soon threatening notes are revealed and it’s discovered she was coming into some money.

Vanessa’s childhood friend Frankie is suspicious, as are a couple of local girls who try to get the police to investigate Vanessa’s death but they’re not successful until one of them disappears and the two events appear to be linked.

I liked that ultimately there are multiple scenarios here so lots of red herrings and very much loved that the truth, when eventually revealed, is a complex one laced with nuance and moral quandaries.

Although I had trouble keeping track of characters (many of whom are on the periphery but named nonetheless) I enjoyed the way this plays out and the clever twists Clifford throws at readers as it nears its conclusion. It’s a thought-provoking read, bursting with secrets and untruths that might otherwise have stayed buried.

It Takes a Town by Aoife Clifford will be published by Ultimo Press in Australia in early April 2024.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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