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Book review – Scrublands

December 23, 2020 December 2020, Regular Features No Comments

The great majority of crime/mystery novels are by American, English or, more recently, Nordic authors. However there are also a number of lesser known Australian authors of the genre. As well as mostly being very well written they are set in places many New Zealanders will have visited and are easy to visualise. These authors deserve to be better known

A new Australian author, Chris Hammer, has recently joined the ranks. His first novel Scrublands has been set in a small country town with it’s dusty back roads and dried up water way. A town suffering from an extended drought which has bought the town’s commercial heart to its knees and the residents in fractious states of mind.

Their popular parish priest has been a pillar of strength whose calm manner had been a factor in keeping a lid on things. Until one Sunday that is when he steps from the church and shoots five of the parishioners who were gathering outside before Mass. He did not escape, being shot himself.

Absolutely no  reason could be found for this sudden strange behaviour. 

A year after the tragedy a Sydney journalist is sent to do an article on how the town is recovering. However while he is there a shocking new development is again putting the town in the national headlines once more.  And so the story develops.

Chris Hammer has put together a clever and intriguing plot. This  along with some impressive descriptive writing which has the reader clearly imagine the scrubby land and feel the heat. 

Scrublands is an interesting change from the genre with stories which are mostly city bound. Like fellow Australian author Jane Harper Chis Hammer takes the reader to the inland Australia which so many New Zealanders have visited. 

I am looking forward to another novel from Chris.

Mike Beckett

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