Wednesday, January 02, 2019
Scrublands by Chris Hammer
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.