After a disastrous mistake in his job as an inner-city banker leaves Charlie unemployed and penniless, he finds a new calling as a "picker", buying items at flea markets and reselling them at a higher price. He and his wife Velveteen and son Gideon move to the small country town of Coraloo, home of the Coraloo Market run by the eccentric Blackwell family. Velveteen works hard to fit in and transform their "puke yellow" rental house into a home while Charlie manages to antagonise one of the Blackwells, who insists that pickers like Charlie will 'cheapen' the market. Soon Charlie is forced to defend himself against bizarre allegations and fears the family will be ruined again.
The Death of Mungo Blackwell is the first adult novel by Lauren Brandenburg, author of the children's book series The Books of the Gardener. It's a quirky, light-hearted story about a family making the best of things in the face of adversity.
The chapters alternate between the present day, as Charlie and Velveteen, interact with the Blackwell clan, and chapters from the Blackwell family 'history' about the melodramatic life and death of Mungo Blackwell and the origin of the feud between the Blackwells and the Toft family who live in the valley below the market.
I actually picked this one up under the mistaken expression that it was set in Australia, having only skimmed the blurb, since 'Coraloo' sounded like an Australian place name to me. It's actually set in the USA, although I don't think it ever specifies precisely where the fictional town is situated. I found the story a little slow, but I enjoyed the eccentric customs of the Blackwells, such as holding a person's funeral while they are still alive to hear what people have to say about them. The Death of Mungo Blackwell is a quirky, easy read, that is a little slow going, but fun.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Lion Hudson Ltd., via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Published: October 18, 2019