Scrublands will be on my list of favorites next year!
After a traumatic event in Gaza, reporter Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend, a small country town in Australia devastated by a long drought. A year earlier, a charismatic young Anglican priest had opened fire on the church steps--killing five men. Martin's assignment is to write about the the effects on the town a year later.
The question of "why" reverberates--why did Byron Swift shoot down the five men before being killed himself by his friend Constable Robbie Haus-Jones? Surprised by the response of various town members who still seem to admire and respect the young priest, Martin is perplexed.
The owner of the local bookshop urges Martin to investigate the why. Why a popular and beloved young man committed such a violent and senseless crime. A simple assignment is thereby turned on its head as Martin's own curiosity pulls him deeper into the story. Some things about the original story don't seem to fit, and Martin finds himself falling into a rabbit hole leading to more questions than answers.
Not wanting to give away too much, I found this one of the most fascinating and intricate novels I've read in a while. The descriptions of the small town of Riversend and the scrublands make the setting an essential part of the story, the characters are complex, and as other developments occur, the question of how everything fits together becomes more acute. The narrative keeps building, the puzzle more confounding, the action more intense.
Beautifully written, Chris Hammer's first novel is a gripping, curious, and complex tale that kept me engrossed.
A stunning first novel and highly recommended.
Crime/Investigation. Jan. 8, 2018. Print length: 385 pages.