Scrublands by Chris Hammer #BookReview

I was very lucky to receive an invite to join in with the Tandem Collective readalong for this fantastic book. A readalong is where a group of bookworms on instagram all get sent a lovely gifted copy of the book and we read it at roughly the same pace over the course of a week. A group message is set up with all the participants and, as we read the book, we can chat about it together, which was great fun as there are some very colourful characters in this story! We also share our thoughts on the prompt cards which are hidden within the pages of the book. At the end of the week we all post our reviews to our bookstagram feeds and lastly we had an event on zoom to wrap up the readalong; there was a quiz and a Q&A with Chris Hammer who also gave us some great recommendations for other books in the bush noir genre. I love taking part in these events, it’s like a virtual book club and Tandem Collective are really lovely to work with, they make everything fun and there is no pressure to stick rigidly to their reading schedule.

So about the book …

The blurb …

In a country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on the 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 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.

My review …

I thought this was a great Australian crime novel which I’ve now learned is a genre known as outback noir or bush noir. I loved the setting and the Australian lingo, but I think I have a soft spot for Australian drama after being brought up watching Home & Away and Neighbours! 

The setting is incredibly atmospheric. The weather is stifling hot and the town is suffering from drought and bush fires. The town and it’s people are struggling following the horrific crime committed by the priest. Many have moved away and shops and businesses are closing and it is described as a ‘town of death’

Martin scarsden arrives at Riversend to write an article on the one year anniversary since the shootings, but he actually goes beyond his journalistic duties and plays a huge part in solving the mystery surrounding the event. I loved Martin’s character, he is laid back and personable but also a complicated character who is struggling to move on from a traumatic event from his past. 

In fact all of the characters in this book are fantastic. They are so original, quirky, contradictory and flawed and I really enjoyed getting to know them all. 

Chris hammer is a great storyteller and his writing just flowed so beautifully and drew me in right from the first chapter. There is a great pace to the story and considering it is a multi-layered mystery I found it easy to follow, whilst still being completely unpredictable.

I really would recommend this book and the Tandem Collective have also, very generously, gifted the sequel to the readalong group. It’s called Silver and it’s out now in the UK and I can’t wait to read it to find out what Martin gets up to next.  

About the author …

Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. During the summer of 2008-09, at the height of the millennial drought, Chris travelled extensively throughout eastern Australia researching his non-fiction book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim. The drought, his journey through the Murray – Darling Basin and time spent in the New South Wales Riverina inspired the setting for Scrublands. Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations. He lives in Canberra.

Scrublands purchase link: https://bit.ly/3eBBcc2

Thanks for reading!

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