In this searing, “indisputable page-turner” (Associated Press), a town’s dark secrets come to light in the aftermath of a young priest’s unthinkable last act—in the vein of The Dry and Where the Crawdads Sing.
In Riversend, an isolated Australian community afflicted by an endless drought, a young priest does the unthinkable: he kills five parishioners before being taken down himself.
A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend. His assignment: to report how the townspeople are coping as the anniversary of the tragedy approaches. But as Martin meets the locals and hears their version of events, he begins to realize that the accepted explanation—a theory established through an award-winning investigation by Martin’s own newspaper—may be wrong.
Just as Martin believes he’s making headway, a shocking new crime rocks the town. As the national media flocks to the scene, Martin finds himself thrown into a whole new mystery.
What was the real reason behind the priest’s shooting spree? And how does it connect to other deaths in the district, if at all? Martin struggles to uncover the town’s dark secrets, putting his job, his mental state, and his very life at risk.
For fans of James Lee Burke, Jane Harper, and Robert Crais, Scrublands is “a gritty debut...sensitively rendered” (The New York Times Book Review) that marks Chris Hammer as a stunning new voice in crime fiction.
Sydney journalist Martin Scarsden, the hero of Australian author Hammer's stellar first novel, is still recuperating from a traumatic experience while covering a story in the Middle East when he's sent to Riversend to write an article about how the people of the drought-stricken town are coping one year after Byron Swift, a local priest, inexplicably shot down five men in cold blood outside his church one Sunday morning. Martin first stops at a bookstore, where he meets its beautiful owner, Mandalay Blonde, who's struggling to come to grips with a painful past. Mandy insists that Byron, who was killed by a cop shortly after he committed his horrific crime, was a decent man who treated her and her late mother kindly, not the child abuser some believed him to be. Mandy urges Martin to try to find out why he did it. Martin learns after talking to others that more tragedies may be connected with the mass murder. The stakes rise when Martin breaks a journalist's fundamental rule by becoming part of the story, which turns out to be a "heady mix of murder, religion, and sex," as Martin comes to realize. Richly descriptive writing coupled with deeply developed characters, relentless pacing, and a bombshell-laden plot make this whodunit virtually impossible to put down.