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Scrublands - Chris Hammer

Paperback

Published: 25th July 2018
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RRP $32.99
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Published: 25th July 2018
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Set in a fictional Riverina town at the height of a devastating drought, Scrublands is one of the most powerful, compelling and original crime novels to be written in Australia.

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. The bodies of two backpackers - missing since the time of the church shootings - are found in a dam in the scrublands. It's the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin finds himself caught 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.

About the Author

Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV's flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master's degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

WRITE A REVIEW

lost in a haze of dust and heat

5

For me the initial appeal of this book was its setting. Publicity mentioned the story was based in a small Riverina town. I live alongside the Riverina region, and my wife grew up in an area very much like the town at the centre of this book. Riversend is a small, struggling drought-stricken town, thrown into the national spotlight when its priest shoots five of the locals outside the church prior to a Sunday service. Approaching the anniversary of the tragedy, city journalist Martin Scarsden has the job of discovering how the town is coping a year later. After arriving in the town, he discovers there may be a more important story to tell. He soon finds one seemingly straightforward crime becomes increasingly complicated when previously unknown crimes, with possible connections to the church-side murders, come to light. I loved the build-up of complexity within this story; with the author introducing several new plot strands, before bringing them all together in a coherent and plausible conclusion, that makes sense of the original shooting. One of the best books I've read this year

Country NSW

true

Classic Reading

5

A Brilliant Plot & development. Perhaps the denouement was a bit fast & furious but a graeat read.

Otago

true

Great read!

5

Could not put this book down!

Australia

true

Too long and involved

3

Began well but way too long and very confusing in the end

Nana Glen

false

excellent Australian crime fiction

5

"It is, he knows full well, growing into a perfect summer story in the great tradition of Lindy Chamberlain and Schapelle Corby. A heady mixture of murder, religion and sex… a beautiful femme fatale to feed to the cameras, as well as perhaps the most crucial element of all: mystery. Why did Byron Swift open fire? Who did murder the pretty young backpackers? Were they raped and tortured, as alleged by the competition papers? All around Australia, at barbecues and bars, at cafes and canteens, at hairdressers and in taxis, everyone and their dog will be advancing their own half-baked theories of what happened and who was responsible. Talkback radio will be having a field day, the internet will be spawning an equal measure of sick jokes and conspiracy theories." Scrublands is the first novel by Australian journalist and award-winning author, Chris Hammer. It's January so it's hot in the NSW Riverina. Ex-foreign correspondent, Martin Scarsden has been sent to Riversend to do a story on how the town is coping in the aftermath of a shooting massacre. It will soon be a year since the local pastor, Byron Swift, shot down five members of the community. Allegations of paedophilia had been lodged against him but, as he was shot dead by the town's constable, these were never explored further. Nor was Swift's motive ever discovered. Martin wanders through what looks like a dying town, a town in the choke-hold of a crippling drought, trying to get a feel for his story. "He looks away to the horizon, shimmering and ill-defined under the harsh sunlight, the sun that should lift all shadows but instead blurs the edges of the world, renders the horizon debatable, so that it's impossible to tell land from sky." A year ago, Martin's colleague did little to endear himself to the townsfolk, so while most are not openly hostile, neither is he welcomed with open arms. Martin is grateful that the young constable who brought Swift down gives him such a candid interview, but he finds himse

Thirroul

true

Scrublands

4.6 5

80.0

ISBN: 9781760632984
ISBN-10: 1760632988
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 496
Published: 25th July 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3