It Takes a Town

Aoife Clifford

It Takes a Town
Ultimo Press
3 April 2024

It Takes a Town

Aoife Clifford

So many people had reason to hate her, but did anyone have reason to kill her?

Everyone dies famous in a country town, but glamorous Vanessa Walton was a shining star. A celebrity since 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?


Reading this book, I’m reminded of a quote in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, when Jordan says ‘And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.’

Set in the Australian countryside in the small town of Welcome, all anyone can talk about is how Vanessa Walton, the glamorous celebrity and town’s golden child, was found dead at the bottom of her staircase. Everybody says it was a tragic accident. But when 16-year-old Jasmine Langridge, the step-daughter of Barton Langridge, the town’s local MP, finds a threatening note in Vanessa’s handbag, and claims publicly that Vanessa’s death was a murder, she suddenly disappears. With tensions rising, the community of Welcome has never been more scared, nor more distrusting.

When you live in a place where everybody knows everyone, how long can trust for one’s neighbour last when conflict arises? Growing up and living near the Melbourne CBD my whole life, I’ve never felt that fear of isolation or scrutiny from a community because the city life means a life of privacy and anonymity. However, during the covid pandemic, when no one knew what was happening or what our futures would look like, I caught a glimpse of how reliant any community, big or small, is on the unspoken rules and expectations that hold it together for peace, civility, and harmony. But when panic and tragedy, even violence, arises, these structures and shared assumptions can crumble, leaving us to fend for ourselves. The citizens of Welcome must solve Vanessa’s murder and Jasmine’s disappearance together, as a fractured community, even if that means working side-by-side with the killer.

Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Kerry Greenwood, and Richard Osman, It Takes a Town is among the classics, asking us how much we really know those we thought we could trust the most.

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