Cover image for Never trust a dead man
Never trust a dead man
Vande Velde, Vivian.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
194 pages ; 22 cm
Wrongly convicted of murder and punished by being sealed in the tomb with the dead man, seventeen-year-old Selwyn enlists the help of a witch and the resurrected victim to find the true killer.
Reading Level:
880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 7.0 31648.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.9 10 Quiz: 17847 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Anna M. Reinstein Library X Young Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Life has suddenly become very difficult for Selwyn Roweson: First Anora broke his heart and decided to marry Farold, then Farold beat him up in front of the entire village, and finally he was accused of murder when Farold was found with a knife--Selwyn's knife--hilt-deep in his back. Which might not be so bad, except as punishment Selwyn is sealed in the village burial cave with Farold's moldering corpse, there to await starvation--or worse. Worse comes along quickly in the form of a witch with a fast right hook and the ability to raise Farold from the dead. Selwyn thought he disliked Farold when he was alive, but that was nothing compared to having to work by the dead man's side as they search for the real killer.

Author Notes

Vivian Vande Velde (born 1951, Rochester, New York) is an American author who writes books primarily aimed at children and young adults. She currently resides in Rochester, New York. Her novels and short story collections usually contain elements of horror, fantasy, and humor. Her book Never Trust a Dead Man (1999) received the 2000 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. It doesn't bode well for 17-year-old Selwyn when his long-handled knife is found in dead Farold's back. After all, Farold was to marry Anora, the woman Selwyn loves. Deaf to his pleas of innocence, the villagers seal Selwyn in the burial caves to die with only Farold's stinking corpse for company. Along comes Elswyth, a belligerent but good-hearted witch who not only leads Selwyn out of the caves but also brings Farold's spirit back to help Selwyn find the real killer. Elements are oddly paired in this fantastical mystery. The townspeople are equally stupid and cruel, and their treatment of Selwyn is decidedly macabre, yet the story is written in a light-hearted, rather humorous style. Although Selwyn is a naive man on the brink of adulthood, dealing with jealousy, self-esteem, and wrongful accusation, he seems a particularly young and generally flat protagonist. The tale's star is Farold, back from the dead, first in the form of a bat, then a songbird, and finally a duck. He is sometimes sullen, often rude, generally given to fits of pique, and terribly funny. Despite the incongruity between plot and tone, this is an entertaining book that will attract both fantasy and mystery readers. --Holly Koelling

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this Edgar Award winner set in medieval times, Anora chooses to marry the obnoxious but wealthy Farold instead of Selwyn, thus making Selwyn the chief suspect when Farold is found murdered. Ages 12-up. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-When a teen is accused of murder, he teams up with the unlikable victim's ghost to find the true killer. A tongue-in-cheek medieval farce and a supernatural mystery. (May) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-A medieval mystery with a touch of the supernatural. Fellow villagers wrongly accuse Selwyn, 17, of murdering fellow teen Farold and leave him to die in a burial cave alongside his supposed victim's "moldering corpse." During Selwyn's first evening in the chamber, Elswyth (a witch) appears and offers to help him escape if he agrees to work as her servant. Wanting to first clear his name, he asks her to bring the victim back from the dead to reveal his true killer. Unfortunately, the resurrected Farold (who mistakenly ends up in the body of a bat) does not know who killed him and the two enemies who have fought over a shared love interst become unlikely partners in the search for the murderer. Elswyth provides magical disguises so that they may return to their village unnoticed. At one point, the two travel (hardly inconspicuously) as a pilgrim and his bat. Selwyn soon discovers that Farold's shady character has earned him numerous enemies but he eventually solves the mystery and wins his freedom. Vande Velde successfully weaves humor with suspense throughout the story. Selwyn and Farold's jocular banter typifies a friendly antagonistic relationship and Elswyth provides comic relief with her penchant for sarcasm. Filled with engaging characters, witty dialogue, and lots of action, this is an entertaining blend of fantasy, whodunit, and comedy.-Laura Glaser, Euless Junior High School, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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