Lisa Walker & Trouble is my Business

Lisa Walker & Trouble is my Business

Lisa Walker has carved a smart, refreshing niche in Australian YA literature with two highly engaging detective capers, The Girl with the Gold Bikini and Trouble is my Business (Wakefield Press). Olivia Grace, her protagonist in both books, seems an unlikely Private Investigator but she is very good at her job. There is plenty of humour and fun, as well as disguises, in the novels.

In this article for PaperbarkWords, Lisa introduces Olivia and her current case while hinting some of the issues that subtly underpin Trouble is my Business.

Lisa Walker on Trouble is my Business:

I’ve always been partial to a gutsy, fast-talking Private Investigator who gets herself into and out of messes with panache. Teen PIs Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars helped to inspire my two YA novels, ‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’, and the most recent, ‘Trouble is my Business’.

In ‘Trouble is My Business’ Olivia Grace is a recently retired teen PI. She’s got her priorities sorted and they don’t include solving cases. She needs to pass first-year law, look after her little sister, and persuade her parents to come back from a Nepali monastery and resume parenting.

But then Olivia’s friend Abbey goes missing in Byron Bay and she decides she can’t sit back and study torts. It’s time to go undercover as her alter ego Nansea, who Olivia envisages as Nancy Drew’s long-lost hippy cousin.

Both Olivia Grace novels have a strong feminist message, but my choice of titles is an ironic nod to less-empowering stories. While ‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ gives a wink to James Bond, I borrowed the title of ‘Trouble is My Business’ from Raymond Chandler. Chandler was the master of the hardboiled crime fiction genre. I love his pared-back writing and the dark atmosphere of his novels. But I’m thrilled that crime fiction has moved on from Chandleresque depictions of women.

‘All blondes have their points,’ muses Chandler’s Private Investigator Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s female characters are either femme fatales or dead women – deadly blondes or dead blondes. They ‘smell lovely and shimmer’, or ‘straight-arm you with an ice-blue glare.’ Women only appear as either victims or villains in these noir crime novels.

Olivia is more screwball than hardboiled, but like Marlowe, she’s driven by a quest for truth. I’d like to think that she also does a good line in witty banter. Olivia does encounter several complicated blonds on the way to solving her case, but they are all of the male variety. There’s a hard-core surfer who argues with her in the surf. An acrobatic botany student who leaps over her head in a busking act at Byron Bay market. And her irresistible ex- boss Rosco, who’s proving impossible to avoid.

Olivia owes more to Sue Grafton’s protagonist Kinsey Millhone, or Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum than she does to Philip Marlowe. Like Kinsey Millhone, Olivia has little interest in fashion. Cargo pants and T-shirts take the place of Kinsey’s jeans and turtlenecks. She’s a get-on-with-it type of girl, tough, smart, and ambitious.

‘My outfit of crumpled cargos and a worn-out T-shirt is not lawyer-in-training material. I haven’t kept on top of my washing.

The first week of uni, Sophie had asked me if I was into normcore. I’d had to consult Google. It turned out the normcore fashion trend focuses on looking nondescript. Khaki cargo pants are in, colourful dresses are out. Designer purses are out, backpacks are in. It was me to a T.

‘Why yes, I am into normcore, thank you for asking,’ I’d replied. It was a revelation. I wasn’t fashion-challenged, as I’d thought. No, I was at the forefront of a cutting-edge trend.’ (‘Trouble is My Business’)

Male PIs seem to mostly have no commitments beyond their crime solving duties. Sherlock Holmes is an unmarried loner, as is Philip Marlowe. Like many female sleuths, however, Olivia is handicapped by her family situation.

Her parents have abandoned her to volunteer in Nepal. Her seven-year-old little sister is delightful but demanding. And her grandmother is more interested playing ukulele than helping with childcare. Olivia is far too busy holding it all together to smell lovely and shimmer like a Chandler blonde.

Lisa Walker (author website)

Trouble is my Business at Wakefield Press

Lisa Walker’s website

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