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4.5 out of 5 stars
Never Trust a Dead Man
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Selwyn is accused of murdering Farold, a romantic rival, and sentenced to be "buried alive" in the burial cave with his alleged victim. Selwyn is innocent, and fortunately for him, he meets a witch named Elswyth who has entered the cave from a secret entrance to obtain spell-making materials. She agrees to help him, but whacks him on the head every time he asks a stupid question (which is frequently) and asks him to pledge years of his life in service to her as payment. He agrees, and asks her to bring Farold back to life so he can ask him who the real murderer is. Unfortunatley, he muffs his part of the spell, and instead of being magiked into his own body, the Farold is installed in the body of a bat. And, since he was stabbed in the back, (a fact Selwyn somehow overlooked) he has no idea who killed him. Eventually the three (Selwyn, Farold and Elswyth)come up with a plan to find the real murderer and clear Selwyn's name.
I thought this book was fabulous. The characters are fully-realized, and the plot zips right along. My favorite thing about it is the relationship between Selwyn & Farold, who were enemies in life, but grow to be friends after Farold's death and transformation into a bat. Their banter is hilarious, and I also loved Elswyth, who is probably the smartest, and certainly the most sensible character in the book. Highly recommended for fantasy/mystery fans age 10 and up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 18, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Young adult book about seventeen year old, Selwyn Roweson. The story begins with Selwyn being accused and convicted as a murderer. It's kind of hard to protest when they've gagged your mouth and you have no say in the matter. Because there is no executoner in the small town and the townspeople don't want to have to wait for the authorities, they decide to bury Selwyn with the dead body in a local burial cave. The dead, Farold, was never a friend of Selwyn. As a matter of fact, the two boys were both vying for the hand of the same pretty girl. (She chose Farold.) But when a strange witch shows up inside the dark cave and shows Selwyn the way out (after agreeing to payment), Selwyn finds himself with a chance to find the real killer (with the help of the witch and the dead Farold).

Wittily told. I laughed throughout.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've always been a fan of Vivian Vande Velde. For those of you who don't know, she writes YA and J books, most fantasy, one vampire book, and a couple of historical ghost stories. She's very prolific--I think she had three hardbacks(at least three that my library purchased) published last year, and I'm slowly attempting to catch up with them all.
Her newest book is called "Never Trust a Dead Man", and I think it is her best one yet. It's billed as a "Mystery-Horror-Comedy about Love and Life After Death. Sort of." It's definitely a mystery, there is some horror and slight fantasy elements, and plenty of comedy. If you don't buy this book, check it out at the library, just to read the end of Chapter 13. Luckily, I was on break when I read that part, or else I would have been laughing in front of the whole library. There's also a very interesting punishment for murder, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am about 2-3ds into this book. It is now my favorite book no matter what happens at the end. Poor 17-year old Selwyn is accused of murder because he loved a girl Farold loved. After Selwyn found out that the girl had chosen Farold to be her husband Farold was found dead and stabbed in the back;with Selwyn's knife! Some villigers put him to death in a place he would starve. He met a witch there and now they are trying to figure out who the REAL murderer is. GREAT BOOK!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I immediately liked the characters. Some situations they were in were frightful. And other situtaions were funny. A good combination in a book. The mystery was compelling and I didn't have a clue who was the murderer. It was not distasteful, or vulgar. The witch was harmless, but of course had a bag of spells (like all witch characters do, or they wouldn't be witches)
I recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Never Trust a Dead Man is definitely a great book; hence its interesting title. The protagonist is a teenaged boy, Selwyn, who have been falsely accused of killing his lifetime enemy, Farold. As a punishment, he is to be buried alive in the burial cave with Farold's dead body. The story heats up when a witch comes along and raises Farold up from the dead to help Selwyn find the real murderer. This teamed up of a dead man and a falsely accused murderer makes this plot unique from every other book I have ever read. Original as it is, the plot also moves quite rapidly, with surprising entrances of new characters. To make the story juiced up, there are many foreshadowing that lead to solving the main conflict of discovering the real murderer. However, each time the chapter progress, the foreshadowing lead us to a new suspect. During the story, I sometimes wondered about what I would do if I was in Selwyn's place, and found myself stuck with many different thoughts. Despite my thoughts, the story seems to always go a different direction. The only correct prediction I made about this book is probably the theme, which is "There is a nice side behind every evil man." A perfect example of this is my favorite character, the witch. Although she appears to be all evil and dark, throughout the story she plays the biggest role in helping Selwyn find the real murderer. Compared to other mystery and suspense books, I would rate Never Trust a Dead Man five stars, because this is a one-of-a-kind-book. It is very entertaining how the author perfectly combines mystery, suspense, humor, and fantasy altogether to make this book very original. I would strongly recommend this book to all the young adults, who are looking for something new and interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Never Trust a Dead Man is a highly entertaining, humorous and original. An intriguing mystery. Vivian Vande Velde has written a tight knit mystery, with a host of characters-most of them suspects. With puzzle pieces all over the place, I could not wait to finish the tale to see what the final picture displayed.

Selwyn is a young man, working the farmland with his father when a mob from the village shows up. Selwyn has been accused of murdering Farold. The villagers have all the proof they need. Both had been courting beautiful Anora. Recently, Anora chose Farold to marry. Perhaps embarrassed, Selwyn started a fight with Farold, in which Farold won. To make matters worse, it was Selwyn's knife found at the murder scene.

Selwyn, in front of a Star Chamber proceeding, is sentenced to be sealed with Farold's corpse in the community burial. Thought to be doomed, Selwyn cannot believe when he encounters a witch. With hasty promises made, the witch agrees to help Selwyn out of the tomb. She also agrees to bring Farold back, so he can tell Selwyn who the true murderer is. The spell goes awry and Farold is returned as a bat. Worse, he does not know who killed him.

Promising to serve the witch as a slave for many years, Selwyn and Farold set out to find the killer and to let Selwyn's family know that he is all right. The witch, for a price, provides the two with disguises. Selwyn has only one week to solve the crime before he must return to repay his dent to the witch.

Never Trust a Dead Man is just full of laugh-out-loud bantering dialogue, hilarious situations and an insistent sense of urgency to figure out who is responsible for killing Farold. This is a spry and witty, a solid mystery. Vivian Vande Velde is quickly becoming my favorite young adult novelist.
--Phillip Tomasso III, author of Third Ring, Tenth House & Mind Play
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When the Librarian handed me Never Trust a Dead Man written by Vivian Vande Velde I thought it would be boring, but when I got into the book I though it was one of the best books I've ever read.
Filled with mystery and humor, Never Trust a Dead Man is a story about a young 17-year-old teenager named Selwyn that has had a bad week. His love, a beautiful girl named Anora left him, and that broke his heart. She left him for a boy named Farold, and decided to marry him. After this, both Farold and Selwyn had a fight in front of the whole gossip village people, in which Farold won. To end his bad week, Farold killed with his knife. The knife was shot deep inside his back while he was sleeping. The next day the gossip villagers came to get Selwyn, and bring him to trial. All the villagers thought he was the one, who had committed the crime, because the knife that was used to commit the crime was his, and they all remember the fight with Farold; they know he wants Anora. So the villagers take Selwyn to Anora's house. In Anora's house, Anora's father shows Farold his knife, and tells him the evidence against him. Anora's father and the villagers declare him guilty. Because he was declared guilty, he is buried alive with Farold's body in the burial caves. Then when they close the rock gate he is left scared in the darkness surrounded by smelly bodies. Then a witch named Elswyth appears and offers to take him outside of the cave if he would be her servant for one year. He accepts, but then he asks for more wishes, one of those wishes was to revive Farold. At the end Selwyn has to serve Elswyth for six years. When Elswyth was doing the spell, and Selwyn was helping her to revive Farold, Selwyn did a mistake and Farold revive as a bat. Also in the deal Elswyth gave Selwyn one week to find the real murderer so he would be free of charge. The worst part was that Farold didn't know who had killed him because he was struck in his back at night. Are they going to be able to find the murderer in one week?
Read the book and find out who was the real murderer. I think everybody should read this book. I think the author did a good job in expressing the humorous and mysterious feeling of the book. I would recommend this book mostly to boys from 13 to 18 years old.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Never Trust a dead man is a book with alot of good characters. It is one os the best books I ever read. It hase a really good plot. In this book two men fall in love with one women and when she chooses a man named Farold over the main character because of his money. The next Day Farold is found dead and Anora the wopmen he was going to marry is shoucked and will not come out of her house. The main character is then accused and put in a cave to die. I liked this book because it is a good mix of fantasy action and mystery. This is a good book and if you like fantasy with witches spells, action and mystery then this is a good book for you. If you want to know if the main character finds out who,did it you will have to raed the book. The title might give you a clue what happens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Never Trust a Dead Man is about Selwyn (17 year old) who is convicted of a murder. For punishment he has to sit in the burial cave with Farold (dead man). A witch comes to the rescue and helps Selwyn find the true murderer. The witch brings Farold back from the dead. The true murderer was ... You'll have to find out yourself. I would recommend this book to people who like witchcraft and to anyone because I thought it was a GREAT book!
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