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Never Trust a Dead Man
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Never Trust a Dead Man

4.5 15
by Vivian Vande Velde

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When Selwyn is accused of murdering his rival, Farold, he is sealed in the village burial cave with Farold's moldering corpse to await starvation--or worse. Worse comes along quickly in the form of a witch who raises Farold from the dead. Selwyn thought he disliked Farold when he was alive, but that was nothing compared to working by the dead man's side as they search


When Selwyn is accused of murdering his rival, Farold, he is sealed in the village burial cave with Farold's moldering corpse to await starvation--or worse. Worse comes along quickly in the form of a witch who raises Farold from the dead. Selwyn thought he disliked Farold when he was alive, but that was nothing compared to working by the dead man's side as they search for the real killer.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

[set star] “Filled with engaging characters, witty dialogue, and lots of action, this is an entertaining blend of fantasy, whodunit, and comedy.”—School Library Journal (starred)

“Universally appealing and difficult to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews

The ALAN Review - John H. Bushman
Seventeen-year-old Selwyn Roweson is wrongly convicted of murder and is sealed in a death tomb as his punishment. He is left there to die along with the person that was killed. In this fantasy, Selwyn is rescued by a witch who first transforms Selwyn into a beggar and then a young girl. With these disguises he searches for the true murderer. Selwyn is aided in his search by Farold, the person who was killed. He has been resurrected in the form of a bat. They both head back to the community where the killing took place to search for clues. For those who love murder mysteries with fantasy and a taste of clever, comedic language, Never Trust a Dead Man will serve them well.
VOYA - Karen Herc
Selwyn thought he had problems when Farold was alive, but those were nothing compared to the problems he has after Farold dies. Everyone knows Selwyn and Farold were rivals for Anora's affections, and everyone knows they fought, so naturally after Farold is murdered everyone thinks Selwyn must have killed him. Not wanting to execute Selwyn, the villagers decide it would be much easier to leave him in the burial cave along with Farold. Selwyn might have stayed in the cave forever if it were not for Elswyth, a witch searching for spell ingredients. Unfortunately, she has a horrible habit of smacking Selwyn when he says something stupid, and she thinks everything he says is stupid. She does agree to help him, in exchange for his giving her years of servitude, and even attempts to bring Farold back from the dead so he can reveal the name of the real murderer. The spell goes awry, however, and Farold's spirit is forced to inhabit the body of a bat. Worse yet for Selwyn, Farold does not know who killed him either, but Elswyth disguises them so they can investigate. Of course by the time they discover the murderer, Selwyn has also discovered that Farold, and even bad-tempered Elswyth, are not as bad as he had thought. While parts of the plot are predictable--we all know Anora is not as angelic as Selwyn thinks--the mystery unfolds neatly and logically with a lot of clever dialogue along the way. Fans of Vande Velde's other stories will not be disappointed. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
It's a medieval mystery. It's a comedy. It's the tongue-in-cheek story of Selwyn's adventures after he's accused of murdering Farold over an affair of the heart. Seventeen-year-old Selwyn is naive for his age, but he begins to learn the important things after bartering years of his life to a local witch in return for bringing Farold back to life as a talking bat. The fun is in watching former enemies forge a curious friendship. Vande Velde's story starts off silly, but by the end the reader is won over to her fantastical premise.
Library Journal
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) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
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 Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Victoria Strauss
In past books, Vande Velde has dealt strongly and convincingly with dark and even tragic themes, but Never Trust a Dead Man is a thoroughly light-hearted romp. Never Trust a Dead Man, which takes place in an unspecified but believable medieval setting, is deftly plotted, with complications and reversals that unfold seamlessly and are tied up into a neat solution. There's a nice surprise ending, too. It's a delightful book, certain to be a hit with teenage readers who like their fantasy on the humorous side.
— SF Site
Michelle West
...[A] young adult novel that was over far, far too quickly. Does it make you think? Sort of, but really, on first pass it's just charming and amusing enough that thought is suspended in the best possible way....a murder mystery with a twist and a great sense of humor.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Laugh-out-loud dialogue and description develop the colorful characters; a straightforward narrative with fairy-tale elements and a good sense of comedic pacing balances the more outrageous aspects of the tale.
The Horn Book Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
Murder, magic, salacious secrets, and sparkling wit immediately pull the reader into this engrossing medieval whodunit from Vande Velde (Ghost of a Hanged Man, 1998, etc.). Selwyn, 17, is condemned to death after his rival, Farold, is murdered in his sleep. Overwhelming circumstantial evidence convinces villagers of Selwyn's guilt, so he is thrown into the burial cave to rot with the corpse. Although his fate seems grim, Selwyn is soon rescued by a hard-bargaining witch, Elswyth. She resurrects Farold's spirit, frees them both from the cave, disguises them, and allows them one week to find the real murderer in exchange for years and years of Selwyn's servitude. Hilarious mishaps ensue, as the bickering amateurs search out answers, exposing the villagers' true colors along the way. The sympathetic hero, original humor, sharp dialogue, and surprising plot twists make this read universally appealing and difficult to put down. (Fiction. 12-14)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Vivian Vande Velde has written many books for teen and middle grade readers, including Heir Apparent, User Unfriendly, All Hallow's Eve: 13 Stories, Three Good Deeds, Now You See It ..., and the Edgar Award–winning Never Trust a Dead Man. She lives in Rochester, New York. Visit her website at www.vivianvandevelde.com.

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Never Trust a Dead Man 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Fiddlesticks-the-Cat More than 1 year ago
This book is guaranteed to make anyone laugh. Selwyn has been accused of murdering his rival, Farold. He asks a witch to raise Farold from the dead so Farold can say who killed him. Only one problem. Farold does not know either. Now these two enemies must work together to find Farold's killer and clear Selwyn's name. This is a mystery that pulls you in from the start and won't let go. It is full of laughs and even more suspects than the two teens realize. Never Trust a Dead Man moves fast so there is no chance of boredom.
MitulPatel More than 1 year ago
I really like this book because it has a suspenseful mystery about murder. The mystery about Farold being found dead with a knife in his back and it was Selwyn's dagger and Selwyn is blamed for the murder. The book was very good because I couldn,t put it down until I fell asleep. I recommend this book to book to anyone who is interested in mystery and medieval times. I wouldn,t say there is any other book I have in mind that it better than this one. If I had to chose between this book and another one I would chose never trust a dead man. My rateing for this book is Six out of ten. Maybe others think so too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Selwyn, a teenage boy went through the worst experience of his life. He was accused of killing his friend, Farold. There was evidence that Selwyn killed Farold because Selwyn¿s knife was found in Farold¿s back. Selwyn didn¿t really do it, but the committee of the community decides to put him in a cave where all the dead people are put including Farold. Luckily Selwyn didn¿t get executed, but he was bound to die from starvation in a few days. Selwyn¿s somewhat savior, Elswyth opens the cave up one day. She was going to do some spells on the dead and she found Selwyn still alive in the cave. Elswyth tells Selwyn that he must do labor for her saving him. The labor would take one year to pay off! Selwyn asked Elswyth to let him talk to his family and tell them that he¿s not dead. He also asked her to bring Farold back to life to find out who really killed Farold. For these favors done by Elswyth, she charged Selwyn many more years of hard labor done for her. Selwyn keeps giving in and the years of labor keep building up. To talk to his family, Selwyn has to be disguised like someone else so no one knows he¿s still alive. To make the disguises Elswyth charges more years and it seems never ending. Will he ever get out of this mess? Well you¿ll have to read the book yourself to find out. I really enjoyed this book and liked how the author, Vivian Vande Velde, expressed her thoughts about the events that happen. This made the book a lot more interesting to read and this is the first time in awhile that I wanted to keep reading a book. The only thing I didn¿t like about this book is the names were quite awkward and I¿m still not sure how to pronounce them. I really got wrapped up in this book and it seemed as if I were actually there. This is definitely a must read book for young adults no matter what kind of books you like. I¿d say there are several big words in this book so I¿d recommend this book to someone from the ages thirteen and up. This book won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2000 for the best mystery. This is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was not really not a fun story but it can be a litte scary
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Never Trust a Dead man is the story of a boy named Sewlyn, who is fighting against Farold (the town bully) for the attention and love of one girl. After being humiliated by the hands of Farold in front of the tevern, Sewlyn finds himself heart broken. But when Farold is found murdered everybody assumes Sewlyn is the guilty party. Basically thinking he did it out of a jealous rage. The town¿s people come together and convict Sewlyn of this crime. His punishment is to be placed in the tomb with the victim (Farold). While in the tomb, he recieves help form two unlikely people, a witch and the now resorrected Farold. With their assistance Sewlyn sets out to find the true killer. I really enjoyed this book because it kept me on my toes. The mystery was finding out who or what was next. Not only was it a mystery, but it had a lot of comic relief. Whenever Sewlyn, Farold and the with was together something funny was bound to happen. The best thing about the story was the fact that I felt like I was part of the story, therefore I didn¿t want to put the book down so that I could find out who the killer was.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was great!!!!i really loved it b/c of it's humor and the story was very good!!! when selwyn gets turned into a girl it's hilarious!!! even though he's in a girl's body he acts so much like a boy and the witch is very funny b/c she hits selwyn with her stick all the time!!!it's a very good book with a good ending and a good mystery!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got the book Never Trust a Dead Man out of the school libraray when I had nothing else to read. I started to read it and got HOOKED. I couldn't put it down, which got me into trouble with my teachers. I felt so sorry for poor Selwyn, always getting hit on the head by a witch and being stuck with his dead rival. Farold seemed to be kind of a meanie, but you do have to feel sorry for him, being murdered and all. For the first time, I didn't know who dunnit. This book is wonderful and contains twists and turns right up to the last page. All of my friens wanted to read this book. Because of the title, I thought that maybe Farold was bad, but he wasn't. I loved the character Elswyth, and she ended up being really nice. Read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
^^ Haha. At first, you would think it was kinda creepy by seeing the title on the spine, but then by chance, reading the back...well, I did, and it turned out comical. Poor Selwyn--all the things you gotta love to hate happens to him unfortunately. One, a witch that smacks his head a lot--two, he gets stuck with his long time rival person who turns out dead, and develops a strange friendship, and three--he finds out that an idiot blonde girl he liked happened to be evil. You could tell the last one since the first page. But you gotta admit, the smacking on head thing is a classic that no one really uses in books, ever. ^^ Adds to the story well. Especially coming from a weird witch who doesn't have to be good or evil or anything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never Trust a Dead Man This book, Never Trust a Dead Man was very amazing and Very fantastic. If you check this book out it¿s mysterious Power will make you read it over and over again. I liked this book because it has a great plot the other thing I Liked about this book is how the Author wrote the book. Instead off writing this book like any other mystery book The Author wrote about a mystery-Horror-Comedy about Love and life after death. This book is about mystery Because it is a murder situation where a guy name Farold Is murdered the villagers accused one of his enemies Selwyn of killing him. This was because Selwyn¿s knife Was used to kill the victim. This book is about love Because Selwyn and farold loved the same girl name Anora. This book is also about life after death. Farold Was dead and brought back to life by a witch named Elswyth. If you are interested in mystery books, read Never Trust A Dead Man. Interested in finding out who the real killer is Read Never Trust A Dead Man.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great! I definately recommend this book to anyone! It was hard to follow at the beginning, but as you read on it was easier to understand! It's about a boy named David who goes to live with his Aunt, Uncle and Cousin Lily in Camberidge, Mass. David lives in the upstairs attic, and at night he sees his dead cousin Kathy's ghost. He learns just how weird his relatives are, and what secrets they have hidden. This book was so good I could hardly put it down! If you haven't read this book, I suggest you do!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so great....I really love reading. I have read a lot of books and this has been my favorite one. I also bought a book that vivian vande velde wrote. Titled 'curse.inc.' that book is also great.good thing i bought it cause i was reading it so many times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my 8th grade summer reading book and i truly enjoyed this mystery.... The best part of the mystical medieval mystery is that every one is a suspect and that the main character (Selwyn) can not trust anybody. I definetly reccomend this book to enthusiastic rea