Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Scrublands by Chris Hammer, with thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline who sent me a copy to review.
In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.
A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events.
Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.
Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes 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.
Scrublands is a really immersive read; set a year after a horrific crime took place in Riversend, Australia, when a young priest shot and killed five individuals. For the first anniversary, journalist Martin Scarsden heads there to report on how the locals are coping one year on from the tragedy. But he has no idea how big of an impact this job will have on the rest of his career and how close to danger he’ll come.
I really enjoyed this one. Chris Hammer captures the dusty terrain of the Australian outback and just how isolated the town of Riversend is, compared to the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne which attract most tourists. This is a community which very much looks after its own, and they don’t take too kindly to outsiders which Martin is quick to become aware of, although he is quick to form a relationship with the owner of the local bookshop, Mandalay.
The story is hugely entertaining. As Martin attempts to get the bottom of just why the police decided to kill so many people, the bodies of two German backpackers are found nearby; these two tourists went missing at around the same time the incident he is reporting on took place. Now the police are desperate to find out what happened to them and who was responsible for their murders.
I really wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on in this town. The novel itself is quite long, but Chris’s writing made the book feel like a very quick read. I was quickly pulled into the story and Chris’s description of the town really made me feel as though I was there.
Martin was a really engaging character, and I kept thinking about the danger that seemed to be around him all the time while he was in Riversend researching the crime that took place. There were so many unanswered questions about the priest and conflicting reports about him from the locals. This made this book so interesting; it seemed that right from the start there was something much bigger to this case than what first meets the eye.
Scrublands has put Chris Hammer’s name firmly on my radar, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by him in the future. This is a crime novel with real depth which races along at a quick pace and plants you firmly within the setting. Overall, a terrific read.
Publication date: 8th January 2019
Print length: 496 pages
If you would like to purchase Scrublands you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.