Scrublands

I thought this was another really great crime novel and Chris Hammer’s evocative writing immediately drew me in to the story of small town, beyond the burbs, Australia. Hammer’s descriptions of Riversend, an imaginary town in the outback, were brilliantly depicted, and from the outset the detail had me immersed in the searing heat and dust – the desiccating and physically debilitating pressure of the setting.

 

I found the main protagonist, Martin Scarsden, intriguing, although not always the sort of person I’d want to spend time with. In fact that was true of most of the characters, but then again, that is probably why the story was so compellingly gritty and credible. The only small detail I found slightly detracted, was the repeated referral to Scarsden, a former war correspondent, being locked and left in a Mercedes car trunk in Gaza. The experience was never really explained, the trauma not fully revealed …

 

That aside, I enjoyed the slow unpacking of this story and the character motivations, especially discovering the reasons behind the priest’s decision to shoot five of his parishioners. There was a lot going on for one small town, but Hammer managed to not only pull it off, but made it seem probable.

 

Hammer’s writing is undoubtedly superb. For me this was very much literary crime fiction. I particularly enjoyed the small details, the nuances, the author’s words hitting the perfect jarring notes. I highly recommend!

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