Sunday, 11 November 2018

Book Review: Scrublands (Crime Fiction)

Title: Scrublands
Author: Chris Hammer
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 
Publication date: August 2018
RRP: $32.99
Pages: 496
Format Read: Uncorrected Proof Copy
Source: Courtesy of Publisher

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.

Journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend, a town traumatised by tragedy, to write a piece on how the residents are coping one year on from a mass shooting. However as he talks to more and more locals, the reason for the shooting doesn’t seem to fit the perpetrator. With his journalistic instincts propelling him on, Martin’s focus begins to shift and he becomes further embedded in the lives of the residents. But not everyone is happy about him being there as slowly one by one the town’s secrets are disclosed.

What originally looked like an open and shut case turns into a compelling mystery filled with assumptions and lies.

Hammer throws his readers straight into the height of an Australian summer with his vivid descriptions of the unrelenting heat, the diminishing rural town and the ever present threat of bushfires.

Four different crimes, all taking place in and around the same drought-ravaged town, all separate but all inter-linked, driven by greed and hate, guilt and hope.

Scrublands is a taut thriller with well developed characters and multiple plot lines that will keep you turning the pages.

The mystery had me completely baffled and my head was whirling as each new revelation was revealed. I was totally immersed in the characters and their stories.

A compulsive thriller that will haunt you long after you have turned the final page.
A must read for fans of Jane Harper.

Content: minimal coarse language
                Minimal violence (well it is a crime thriller)
                Road kill (a sad but unavoidable part of rural Australia)

My Rating 5/5     🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

 Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV's flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than thirty countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master's degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children. 

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