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(Martin Scarsden #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  16,223 ratings  ·  1,809 reviews
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 ab
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 25th 2018 by Allen & Unwin
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Cynthia May His hands seem to remind him of his age and his occupation as they were not hardened but "soft".
Our hands betray our age and he was aware of his life …more
His hands seem to remind him of his age and his occupation as they were not hardened but "soft".
Our hands betray our age and he was aware of his life having past with little to show for it. The age difference with Mandy was emphasised in his hands. To an extent his hands are his tools-of-trade as well: typing stories...hand and eyes piecing the story together. (less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Tony Berry Haven't got that far but seems to be yet one more book in the sudden rash of Aussie (the Outback is dry, hot and scary) crime fiction - of a sort. I b…moreHaven't got that far but seems to be yet one more book in the sudden rash of Aussie (the Outback is dry, hot and scary) crime fiction - of a sort. I blame Jane Harper - one good debut book and all repetively downhill from there.(less)

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Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Chris Hammer joins the rising number of illustrious writers in the Aussie Noir genre, and his debut novel is a humdinger of a riveting and atmospheric crime read. It is set in the remote and isolated dying town of Riverend, surrounded by mulga scrubland. It has acquired a notorious reputation as the place where a charismatic and popular young priest, Byron Swift, inexplicably shot and killed 5 people at St James Church, only to be shot dead himself by Constable Robbie Haus-Jones. Riverend has be ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just as I started reading SCRUBLANDS, I was totally invested in the story about a journalist who comes to a small town, Riversend to write an article on a shooting that occurred one year ago. From the very beginning the place, suffering from heat and a long span of drought, is equally important as the main characters and adds to the intensity of the story.
Martin Scarsden, who has had different careers in his life, is moderately interested in the task, however, he gradually becomes engaged and w
David Putnam
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m caught between liking this book and loving it. Is that three and a half stars? The story is well drawn with only one point of view and is written in present tense which adds immediacy to the pacing. The environment and scenery carry equal weight to a main character and create a great atmosphere and sense of place. The story is a multifaceted whodunit in a mystery structure. Definitely not a thriller. The voice isn’t spectacular, but the large number of micro-conflicts continually thrown into ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Australian Rural Crime has arrived, there are novels showing up everywhere claiming this as their sub-genre, and SCRUBLANDS is the one that everyone is talking about. Film rights have been sold, everyone's reading it, most are raving about the book.

So having a contrary opinion is obviously going to go down like a lead balloon, but in this case, this reader has to beg to differ. Personally, after reading, SCRUBLANDS, it's staying with me as an airport thriller style novel shoe-horned into a rural
Kylie D
Riversend is a town on the edge. Plagued by drought, fires, and a priest that opened fire on his parishioners, killing five before being shot dead by police. A year after the tragedy tormented journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in town to write an article about how the town is recovering from the tragedy, only to find that delving into the past has consequences, possibly fatal ones, and the townspeople are hiding more than what was uncovered in the original investigation.

A wonderful book, with b
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A lot goes on in this novel and I do mean a lot. A seasoned but burned-out journalist descends upon a dying town in the Australian outback to cover the aftermath of a mass shooting. Over the course of two weeks he encounters suicides, romance, murders, a car accident, fires and on and on. This novel is overcrowded with occurrences. The romance is a bit creepy and should have been cut but I did like the portrayal of some very eccentric characters. I do think this is a solid debut and look forward ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Scrublands, the almost desert like territory outside of a small rural town in Australia. Where the village priest shot five men from the steps of his church, and no one has figured out why he did it. Where his friend and local cop then shot the priest. Where rumors have spread, but few solid answers are known. Where a reporter with a history is sent to write a feature a year later focusing on how the town has recovered or not.

A longish book, a slow moving, detailed story, and I loved it. Martin,
Andrew Smith
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve got a penchant for Aussie authors, of late. Having been introduced to Liane Moriarty through the excellent Big Little Lies I worked my way through her full catalogue and then devoured the three books written to date by Jane Harper. For me there’s something about the culture and the place that sets these books apart. The characters are often outspoken, bordering on rudeness, and the non-city settings in particular are dramatic and paint pictures that really help to create a startling backdro ...more

“Blaming him. Christ. And he thought the day couldn’t get any worse. It’s not even 9.30 am. ‘I’ve got to go, Martin, but if I were you, I’d be making myself scarce. No one is going to want to know you after this.’

Martin Scarsden, former soldier, foreign correspondent, handsome young, love-‘em-and-leave-‘em charmer. Former. Now 40 and a little tired around the edges, he is a journalist for the highly respected Sydney Morning Herald, and his editor has sent him to a small country town to get aw
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian
Hands from Hell

The main elements of the story: Heat (intense), Sex (non-graphic), Media (crass), Politics (dirty), Religion (not too serious), Dead Animals (cows, kangaroos, and cats) and Murders (many, apparently unmotivated). All these elements are repeated again and again by several or more characters, presumably so that the reader doesn’t forget how hellish the Riverina of New South Wales really is.

Oh, and one more element: Hands (one pair), belonging to the journalist in whom all the othe
Journalist Martin Scarsden was sent from his newspaper in Sydney, to the small town of Riversend in rural Victoria to cover the one year anniversary of the killings by a young priest of five members of his congregation, and how the town was coping in the aftermath of the tragedy. The incessant heat, the relentless drought, the hopelessness of the people – all struck Martin immediately. Shops had closed, the pub was no longer in operation – was the town dying?

But as Martin tried to interview the
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
There seem to be an awful lot of crime books set in the Australian bush lately and the authors appear to be competing with each other to have the hottest outback setting. In this book the MC spits on his fingers before he can touch the doorhandle of his car! I never heard of that one before.

Anyway Scrublands is a good book. The main plot lines are good, the characters are interesting and the romance does not get in the way of everything else. My only problem was that there were too many side iss
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
Lies and calumnies, a loss of perspective, the past bearing down.   

One year ago, a priest laid waste to five men, coolly mowing them down from the front steps of the church. The priest is then shot and killed by the town constable.  Who was this priest?  A man of God, an impostor with an agenda, or something else entirely?  Journalist Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend to do a followup article on how the town is faring after the horrific affair. He finds the small town to be withering, dying
Could there be anymore Australian caricatures then what’s in this book? A drought, bushfire, paedophilia involving the clergy, PTSD, returned soldiers from Afghanistan, a dying town, a broken man, a beautiful local, dopey cops, bikie gangs, drug trade, domestic violence, national secrets, family secrets, media fake news, rape, a nutty hermit, teenage drug use, back packer murders and a surprised inheritance. It’s all a bit too busy.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Droughts are honestly not the most fun reading but you know what's fun? A single mystery that turns into another mystery and then forks into more mystery until you're all tangled up in whodunnits. This was long, but held my attention the entire way and had me bamboozled for most of that.

The Plot: Martin is a journalist with a troubled past, sent to a small country town to do a feature on how the town is coping a year after a beloved priest shot five people in cold blood. As Martin gets to know
Scrublands is a multilayered investigative crime novel which starts off as a seemingly simple assignment for journalist Martin Scarsden when he is sent by the Sydney Morning Herald to write a follow up feature on a mass shooting that occurred a year ago. Martin is still having nightmares about his last assignment in the Gaza strip where he endured a horrifying experience that nearly killed him and his editor thinks this assignment will help him recover.

When Martin arrives in the small rural tow
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hammer’s Australian noir novel takes place in Riversend, the rural heart of Western New South Wales. Max, Martin Scarsden’s editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, has sent Martin to this run down town to write a follow-up to a horrific murder that occurred a year ago. It should be an easy assignment—perfect for the journalist still recovering from PTSD resulting from a life-threatening stint in Gaza. The infamous murder involved the local priest shooting five men at close range from the steps of h ...more
In an isolated country town afflicted by interminable drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, shooting dead five parishioners before being gunned down himself.

This one had a knock-your-socks-off premise, and should have been an engrossing read, but . . . sigh . . . the author kept adding more mysteries that needed solving, and more secrets that needed decoding, until the story became a bloated, convoluted mess. It might have made a difference had
Darryl Greer
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Riversend in outback Australia is the creation of author, Chris Hammer but it could be any one of hundreds of small towns in that part of the world. Drought-stricken, sizzling hot, high unemployment rate, boarded up shop-fronts. Towns like this usually have one cop, if that, because there’s not an awful lot of crime. In Chris Hammer’s debut novel, "Scrublands", Riversend breaks the mould. There is a major crime – followed by many more – which attracts journalists from around the world. One repor ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

The reason behind me wanting to read Scrublands unfortunately also ended up being the reason behind it falling short for me. That reason? Jane Harper. You see, after reading The Dry and The Lost Man I decided I couldn’t get enough of the Australian Outback and clicked the ol’ library request button lickity split when I found out about this one. The premise was a real good one too – a (literally) dried-up town in the middle of nowhe
Aug 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Yikes. That was drawn-out and painful. I realise that this is not the type of book I typically read, but it sounded interesting and I was keen for a quick, easy read. I was very disappointed. The writing was clunky and predictably (stereotypically) 'Australian'. It was hard to plough through as nothing much was happening... That is, until everything happened. While reading this book, I spent most of my time gazing longingly at the other novels on my bedside table. ...more
3.5 *

Scrublands has been heavily marketed in Australia and it was compared to Jane Harper's The Dry due to being set in the Australian outback.

Forty-year-old journalist, Martin Scarsden, is sent to Riversend to write about how the community is coping a year after a much-loved priest killed five men. The long-lasting drought has parched everything, including people's spirits.

Slowly, Martin gets to know the policeman who shot dead the priest and a few other town people, including a beautiful you
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the past couple years I’ve had the opportunity to read some outstanding crime fiction set in Australia. New, or new to me, authors Jane Harper, Emma Viskic, and Candice Fox have all produced books with memorable and well developed characters, evocative descriptions of various areas of Australia, very suspenseful story lines, and superior writing. And the newest addition to that stellar group is Chris Hammer with his book “Scrublands.”

Martin Scarsden is sent to an isolated and drought stricke
Peter Boyle
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
This much-praised Aussie debut certainly begins with a bang. It's an ordinary Sunday morning in the drought-stricken town of Riversend. Local priest Byron Swift is chatting with his parishioners outside before service begins. He goes back into the church, returns with a gun and shoots five men dead. One year later, journalist Martin Scarsden travels to Riversend so that he can write a piece on how the town is coping since the murders. Not very well it seems. The mood is downbeat and hopeless - s ...more
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Scrublands, penned by journalist Chris Hammer, proved to be another strong contender for my favourite crime thriller novel of the year. It is a testament to the array of rich Australian bush based crime novels that are cropping up. If you are a fan of Jane Harper, this one will fill the spot and more. Words cannot adequately express just how magnificent this crime novel proved to be. Scrublands is refined, strikingly realistic and completely compulsive.

Nov 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
This is a crime mystery novel with lots of twists and turns, just when you think you know what’s happening some new info is brought in.
Martin Scarsden is a journalist sent to a small town in the Riverina. He’s suffering PTSD from a previous overseas posting and his editor has sent him to the town to do an easy story, an report on the town one year after a mass shooting.
The best part of the book for me is the landscape. It’s a character in its own right, the drought, the heat, the bushfire, ash
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
For the last three days I've been hooked on the novel Scrublands by Chris Hammer.
Martin Scarsden a journalist from Sydney has been sent to Riversend a small town in the Australian outback. The town is very run down and is in the grip of a drought and a heatwave. One year earlier there had been a mass shooting outside the towns church and Martin is looking to write a story about how the town is moving on since the shooting.
This is a book that kept me on the edge of my seat with the tension rising
Tara Rock
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Hammer just raised the bar on the mystery novel; he nailed it with Scrublands. One of the best I've had the pleasure of reading. I was absolutely enthralled with this story and could not stay away from it for long. Many other reviewers have provided excellent insight. I understand a sequel will be available first of the year. Highly recommended. ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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 h ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm approaching this review very carefully, because this book has so many great twists and turns, that I don't want to spoil or even really allude to if I can help it.

It was the setting that drew me to this -- that cover image so perfectly represents this image that have in my mind of some parts of Australia --- drought stricken, oppressive heat beating down on the few people that live in these small, isolated towns. Images of Wolf Creek (a film; If you haven't seen it, I recommend it with a ce
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Chris Hammer
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

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