Books,  Crime Fiction Books

Book Review – Scrublands – Chris Hammer

Scrublands – Chris Hammer

Published: 8 January 2019, Headline

Genre: Aussie Noir/Thrillers/Suspense

Swathi’s Rating: 4/5

Verdict: This book could steal you out of the real world into the scorching Australian lands and make you feel one amongst the townsfolk.

Hey guys!

Today I am introducing one of the most anticipated Crime Thriller books of January 2019. It’s a complete package of enthralling events in a remote isolated town surrounded my scrublands. Scroll down to know more about this awesome book! Happy reading!


In Riversend, an isolated rural community afflicted by an endless drought, a young priest does the unthinkable, killing five parishioners before being taken down himself.

A year later, accompanied by his own demons from war-time reporting, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend. His assignment is simple: describe how the townspeople are coping as the anniversary of their tragedy approaches. But as Martin meets the locals and hears their version of events, he begins to realize that the accepted wisdom—that the priest was a pedophile whose imminent exposure was the catalyst for the shooting, 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 new development rocks the town. The bodies of two German backpackers—missing since the time of the church shootings—are discovered in a dam in the scrublands, deserted backwoods marked by forest fires. As the 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 the backpacker murders, if at all? Martin struggles to uncover the town’s dark secrets, putting his job, his mental state, and his life at risk as more and more strange happenings escalate around him.

Editorial Reviews:

“A heatwave of a novel, scorching and powerful. This extraordinary debut, perfect for readers of the magnificent Jane Harper, seared my eyes and singed my heart. Don’t miss it.”
— A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW

“Stellar. . . .Richly descriptive writing coupled with deeply developed characters, relentless pacing, and a bombshell-laden plot make this whodunit virtually impossible to put down.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

Scrublands kidnapped me for 48 hours. I was hopelessly lost in the scorching Australian landscape, disoriented but completely immersed in the town and people of Riversend, as the heat crackled off the pages. I was devastated when it was time to go back to the real world. This book is a force of nature. A must-read for all crime fiction fans.”
— Sarah Bailey, author of THE DARK LAKE and INTO THE NIGHT


Author Bio:

Chris Hammer has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin and a senior political journalist for The Age. His non-fiction book, The River, published by Melbourne University Publishing 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.

Swathi’s Review:

I am so thrilled to share my thoughts on this awesome book that I really had a great time reading. Hereis me discussing some vital points about the book!


The Protagonist of the story is Martin Scarsden who is an investigative journalist sent to the rural Townsend to document the coping mechanism of the little town and its decreasing population. Martin has his own PTSD after his time served in the war zone and uses this opportunity to rise back to his capacity and gain his editor’s trust. He is brave and doesn’t give a damn about emotions, while focussing on spreading the truth to the world. He’s your everyday man, and a fierce reporter.

While the Antagonist is supposed to be the young Priest who goes mad and shoots people in the church, the reader is never sure who to truth or suspect in the little town. They hold secrets buried for a very long time, and Martin’s short while in the town isn’t going to give the answers he’s looking for.


The entire story is narrated in a consistent pace, describing every detail possible. Hammer uses his Australian accent to emphasise the atmosphere of the story which is very unique and intriguing to read.

Setting and Background:

Chris Hammer has done a remarkable job teleporting his readers to a remote town surrounded by mulga scrublands – rural, scarce, isolated,  dry and slowly dying. There is the feel of abandonment as he walks through the streets of the town and the creeping laziness.


This story deals with a lot of issues including rape, fraud, drugs, PTSD, biker gangs, killing German backpackers, secret agents, shootings, manslaughter, and atonement. All these form a very interesting and relatable plot which proceeds in the consistent orderly fashion.

The horrid heat burning the town and it’s residents adds the destructive character to the plot. It’s presence is unavoidable and has the same effect on the lifestyle of the town. Chris displays and captures the heat in a brilliance that only a talented hand could do.

Concluding thoughts: 

Highly recommend this Australian Noir of a crime thriller. This is a dense and detailed read. I do look forward to reading what Hammer writes next. Many thanks to Headline for an ARC. All opinions are mine.

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