A Trifle Dead: a conversation


My mum and I don’t share books all that often. Not for any good reasons, but just… because. She is still game to buy books for me, all of which I read and enjoy, even if (like Amazons of Black Sparta) it sometimes takes me a while. She has promised me that when she can get her hands on it she will read China Mieville’s The City and the City; when that happens I may re-read and do another of these conversational reviews.


You need to get with my reading program. I read C and the C many books ago – and loved it!


… MA!! You need to tell me these things!!

TrifleDead-Cover2-115x188ANYWAY. A Trifle Dead is the first book I’ve bought for her in a looong time, and I was really hoping it would up her alley…


And it was. Can’t beat the crime and food combo.



I’ve been looking forward to A Trifle Dead for a long time now, and except for about four chapters – which I read one evening and then had to exercise a great deal of will-power to put down – I read it in one sitting. It’s a classic crime novel in that way, because it just kept on sucking me on.

My limited exposure to crime fiction means I think of them being set either in picturesque country towns or big cities. And I’m sorry Tasmania, but Hobart is no New York. I don’t know Hobart, but I still got a sense that the book is set in the real town – and PLACE is a really important part of the whole story, given that proximity matters a lot. I’m almost tempted to take a copy of the book with me to Hobart sometime and try to match up bits of the plot. That could be a bit freaky though.


I’m right into setting and atmosphere at the moment (writing an essay on its place in Henry James’ Turn of the Screw) and as I HAVE been to Hobart I was very impressed with its realism as regards setting. Not so sure I came across anyone who was nearly as interesting as these characters though.


Day has made Hobart seem waaaay more interesting than most mainlanders would assume. I think my favourite bit is the Botanical Gardens description – and if she made up those bits, I’m going to be very cross.


My recollection is that the gardens are very lovely but it’s been a long time since I was there. Salamanca Place is fantastic if my memory serves me correctly.


I’m still tossing up whether I most enjoyed the characters or the plot. I think the characters might be winning. Tabitha is an unlikely detective, no matter how much she like gossiping and prying and despite (really because of) being the child of a policeman. This aspect – her ambivalence towards the police force because of her father is totally believabe, as is her attitude towards her parents’ divorce and career changes. Mum, are you running away to a hippy commune any time soon?


I think I like my home comforts too much to do that.


And hippies don’t play golf.


That hadn’t occurred to me, but is probably true as would be too busy tie dying or growing stuff. Nothing like a good bit of generalisation!


It’s a really strong part of the whole novel, actually: complicated families and unconventional characters in general written with honesty and love and just a dash of slapstick. Many of the characters fit very broadly into general categories, but they also keep slipping out of them, refusing to be buttonholed. The female friends? Well, one keeps judging Tabitha with her eyebrows, and another hasn’t spoken to her for years and could break her with a little finger. The love interests? One is on the dark and brooding end but that’s because he’s a cop, and he’s more exasperated and brooding; the other is Scottish. And the housemate, Ceege, absolutely refuses buttonholing and I LOVE HIM A LOT I WANT MORE CEEGE. Because, fashion from an eng student will never cease being hysterical. Also I’m now inspired to have my own Oscars party.


I found all the characters highly entertaining and wish I knew a few people like them. Only in books, I fear. Ceege  is definitely a winner. If you hold an Oscars party you’ll have to frock up pretty early in the morning.


I know a lot of Engineering students, but I don’t think any of them could get away with the clothes Ceege does. If I had an Oscars party I would do the same thing as Tabitha – ignore Twitter and the news, and have it in the evening!

The plot would, I think, meet the requirements of the crime lover – do you agree Mum? It’s got a slow unravelling of clues, and tantalising hints of what’s going on and who might be involved and then POW something completely unexpected happens. Because I definitely did not suspect the true culprit.


It’s a good plot. I found the book a really entertaining read which met the requirements of a crime novel lover like me and gave me a welcome break from Dickens, James and Woolfe!


Um yes. Which is good because otherwise your brain might EXPLODE.

Also I liked the food.


Me too.


And if nothing else, the book does convey two essential truths: it’s all about food. And never try to outdrink engineering students.

You can get A Trifle Dead over at Twelfth Planet Press. Buy one for your mum, or your grandad, or your neighbour while you’re there. 


6 responses

  1. Love that you could have this kind of conversation with your mum about books! Fun post!

    1. She had always been a big reader 🙂

  2. 🙂 Love the “format” of this post.

    1. I love writing conversational reviews because it’s so much closer to my normal experience!

  3. […] gave it to my mother for her birthday; she had previously loved A Trifle Dead. About this one, she […]

  4. […] between A Trifle Dead and Drowned Vanilla, Tabitha once again has complicated boy issues, complicated food issues, and […]

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