Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Debut novelist Chris Hammer takes readers to an Australia that might appeal to Jane Harper's readers. Scrublands is an atmospheric mystery set in a dying community, Riversend. The descriptions in Scrublands shows evidence of Hammer's journalist career.

One year after a tragedy involving an Anglican priest, journalist Martin Scarsden shows up in Riversend, Australia to tell the story of the small town, and the repercussions of that day. He discovers a dying community facing drought and economic disaster. At the same time, the residents are angry about the earlier stories told by journalists, and they mistrust Scarsden. Martin digs in, looking for answers, but he faces opposition, anger, and stories that contradict each other.

Some residents view the priest as a saint. Others tell stories hinting he was a pedophile. Are the police even telling the truth to Scarsden? While he tries to find the truth, he uncovers hidden identities, and even old tramps are not who they appear to be.

As he deals with his own PTSD from too much time in Mideastern war zones, Martin encounters an entire town suffering from trauma as a result of the priest's actions. They also have to cope with bushfires and a fatal car accident. Father Byron Swift's secrets have already changed a community. Now, they will also change Martin's life.

In Scrublands, Chris Hammer's intricately plotted, atmospheric debut novel, he introduces a bleak area of Australia, the scrublands, where an entire community is haunted by its secrets and its past. It's a richly detailed, descriptive story.

Scrublands by Chris Hammer. Touchstone, 2019. ISBN 9781501196744 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Deb said...

I enjoy books that are based in Australia. I have been watching several mysteries based in Australia this past year and really enjoy them. I hope my library has this book. Thank you for the review.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Deb. I haven't read enough mysteries set there, but I like them, too.

Gram said...

My library group has this book and I put it on my t-b-r list. Thanks.

Lesa said...

Always my pleasure, Gram!