In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.
A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.
Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.
Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and 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.
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Scrublands is the epic novel about rural life in Australia that we need right now. In its concern with crime beyond the suburban fringe, it sits right up there with the late Peter Temple's Broken Shore, Garry Disher's Bitterwash Road and Jane Harper's The Dry, even as it extends their focus and reach.
There's an expansiveness about Scrublands that gives the reader time to think, to reflect and to get to know both the place and the characters… Scrublands is a rural crime novel with remarkable breadth and depth.
This ‘why-dunnit’ (not ‘whodunnit’), is a remarkable study of human fallibility, guilt, remorse, hope and redemption. The descriptions of landscape are often evocative in the style of Tim Winton, with the parched country-town setting reminiscent of Jane Harper’s The Dry. Hammer is an author to watch. It is hard to imagine Scrublands not being loved by all crime and mystery fans.
5 stars - Books + Publishing
Chris Hammer talks to Good Reading about Scrublands:
Chris Hammer talks to Booktopia about Scrublands: