The Inspiration Behind Wake by Shelley Burr
I went through a period of reading online forums dedicated to unsolved murders – one of those brief but intense obsessions that the internet pulls you into. There are some lovely, compassionate people on those forums who have achieved remarkable things – solving cold cases, raising money for DNA testing on Jane Does, highlighting forgotten victims.
But over time, I became uneasy about the way users would talk about the friends and families of victims. These people didn’t seek out public attention, but they had complete strangers digging into any information they could find about them. It’s easy, in the echo chamber of online spaces, to lose perspective on what you’re doing.
I imagined how angry I would be in their position, and that rage became Mina.
The story flowed from Mina. Her character changed very little from the original idea to the final draft, but it took me a long time to understand her. Mina is angry, and anxious, and completely uninterested in being liked by anybody. Why? Because her sister disappeared, and she has lived her whole life in the shadow of that loss, and the intense international attention the case received.
I knew right away that I wanted the setting to be somewhere remote. I had an image of a farmhouse surrounded by paddocks, like a ship on the ocean. Somewhere that people would assume they were safe, where someone simply disappearing seemed impossible.
WAKE is set in Nannine, which is a fictional town in central New South Wales. (I did borrow the name from a ghost town).
I didn’t want to use a real town for the setting, as it felt unfair to impose fictional crimes on a real place. But there is a real town that I used to check things like, would Nannine have a school? A doctor? Who would you call in an emergency? How long would it take to drive to various cities?
When I was growing up my paternal grandparents had a farm, as did a lot of their siblings. I spent so many hours wandering empty paddocks and exploring shearing sheds. Being so remote affects everything – you need to plan out your supplies carefully when trips to town take hours. You’re very aware of how far from help you are if anything goes wrong. I wanted to capture some of that feeling, but also the beauty and expansiveness of the landscape.
The last piece was my investigator, Lane Holland. Mina’s an immoveable object, so I needed an unstoppable force to collide with her. I read about a particular type of private investigator—those who aren’t hired, but go after cases with rewards for information. Most are older, often retired police officers. But I was drawn to the idea of someone younger, more desperate. Why would someone with the skills to solve crimes choose that line of work, instead of a secure career with the police?
by Shelley Burr
*** THE NUMBER ONE EBOOK BESTSELLER ***
'An outstanding first novel' SUNDAY TIMES (BOOK OF THE MONTH)
'My crime novel of the year so far; a moving depiction of the pain that a mysterious disappearance can wreak on those left behind' SARAH VINE, DAILY MAIL SUMMER BOOKS SPECIAL
'It is hard to believe Wake is a first novel. Plot, pacing and characterisation are so finely judged that it feels more like the work of a past master. The tension builds, and the revelations keep coming, right until the final page where a thrilling climax combines horror, relief and hope' THE TIMES
'Outstanding ... With a slow build and complex characters, this is both a well-plotted, gripping mystery and a sensitive exploration of the aftermath of trauma' GUARDIAN
'Sinuous and spellbinding, this debut comes with a big reputation, which it richly deserves. Intense, evocative and with two characters to move the soul, it deserves to be a hit. It's sensational' DAILY MAIL
EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT'S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH...
Mina McCreery's sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family's destocked sheep farm.
When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.
Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.
Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people's private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.
'Wake is a stunning, masterfully written debut novel, its remote, bleak locations adding tension to an atmospheric and compelling mystery that is hard to put down' SUNDAY EXPRESS
'Perfect for fans of Jane Harper' ALLIE REYNOLDS
'A triumphant debut' ROSE CARLYLE
'Intriguing and compelling. Shelley Burr is a bright new talent' CHRIS HAMMER
'We devoured this stunningly drawn, deeply compelling mystery in one day' CRIME MONTHLY
'Evocative, brutal, and sometimes confronting . . . The plot is complex, tightly constructed and not only keeps you reading, but guessing, right up to the last page' GOOD READING
'Compulsively readable, with an unforgettable setting and cast of characters, 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' BETTER READING
'Wake has more twists and turns than the usual novel and it is very tempting to make your own suppositions as to the end of the book, but it has a brilliant denouement. In fact the book itself is an impressive achievement for a debut novel and I'll be searching out whatever Shelley Burr writes next' ON magazine