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Scrublands

Written by: Chris Hammer
Narrated by: Rupert Degas
Length: 13 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the vein of The Dry and Before the Fall, a town’s dark secrets come to light in the aftermath of a young priest’s unthinkable last act in this arresting and searing debut thriller.

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 wartime 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. 

For fans of James Lee Burke, Jane Harper, and Robert Crais, Scrublands is a compelling and original crime novel that marks Chris Hammer as a stunning new voice in the genre. A compulsively listenable thriller of the highest order, Scrublands never loosens its grip, from its opening scene to the very last moment. 

©2019 Chris Hammer (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Richard Delman
  • 2019-04-05

An operatic cast; a wildly inventive work.

I loved this book. The author has created a world within the Australian Outback, a place so dry and so hostile to life that it is amazing that anyone lives there. The book is full of action. Some may object to the violence, but it seems endemic to the place. The fires are beyond spectacular: you feel that you are fighting them yourself, caught in them, at risk of your life expiring in smoke and unbearably hot temperatures. The characters are very well drawn. Some may be not such good people, but again I feel that their personalities are endemic to the surroundings: unbearable, evil, unsettled, with virtue hard to find. The main character, a "jorno" named Martin, is easy to like. He falls in love with a beautiful young mother who runs a bookshop/cafe, where her son's playpen is in the middle of the floor among the book displays. She is Mandalay (Mandy). There are many other figures in the plot, perhaps too many. Many cross-currents of plot and drama. You don't need to follow every thread to appreciate the whole adventure.
The thing that completely blew me away about this book, though, was the narrator, Rupert Degas. Any comparison of him to any other narrator, even my very favorites, is invidious. He is a truly operatic talent. I have never heard anything like him. Even with the Ozzie accents the people are firmly differentiated, and the local nuances are easy to keep straight. I will immediately begin to look for other works by these two men: this is an unexpected prize. Mr. Hammer and Mr. Degas deserve to win awards all over the place. I hope that they do. It takes nerve, dedication, a lot of time and a lot of belief in your imagination to create a novel; not to speak of a brilliant, brilliantly entertaining audiobook. Enjoy!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Donna
  • 2019-01-12

5

A mesmerising story read by an
outstanding narrator. A journalist as detective was fun,
he was curious about everybody and everything - then I was, too.
So many interesting characters
and the darndest crimes made it so hard to stop listening. The Australian accent used in this is very light. I don't know why but
it was very relaxing.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Sara
  • 2019-10-09

Atmospheric Thriller That Transports

OK so I'm really becoming a huge fan of this Australian--outback--scrubland mystery/thriller genre. I almost gave this book a pass because of the way the writeup/introduction made it seem. It all sounded a bit too open and shut with a strong chance of over the top violence for me. In reality, what you get with this book is to be swept up and plunked down in the middle of a down and out, draught-ridden, bone dry town on the edge nowhere. The writing was good and easily pulled this reader along with every crazy twist and turn. The story was loaded with so much description of the people and the place that it was possible to see every carefully painted detail, smell the smoke, feel the heat and taste the water--if you could find any.

Even better, Degas' narration captured the subtleties and tone of the writing perfectly. It helped make this book into a page turner that I had difficulty putting down. A terrific pairing of writer and narrator. I really enjoyed it. However, do be prepared for some grittiness and violence ahead.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous
  • 2019-01-29

Gripping erudite, and very well-written!!

Multi-layered fascinating story! Mostly believable, complicated well developed characters. Satisfying ending. Has a superb narrator, who can actually do women's voices as well as men's. Best book I've listened to in a year or more.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela J
  • 2019-09-06

Aussie brilliance!

Great story, superior narration, wonderful view into a sub-culture of a far off country, this is one of the better books I've read. I'm sorry that I had never heard of it before, but I'm grateful that Audible pointed me in the direction of this book. This is an adult book that will keep you guessing and bathe you in the lives of the characters that are beautifully drawn out. The cap is an amazing narrator who provides unique (and NOT condescending) voices for each. It's long - - and worth every second.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jim Fletcher
  • 2019-09-02

Intrigue in the Outback

Picking this story up as an alternative to my normal line up of regular listening, I am pleased with the find. Rupert Degas delivers a fluid and articulate reading of multiple murders in a small remote Australian town. A year after several townspeople are killed in cold blood by a local priest, Martin Scarsdale shows up to do a follow up piece. As he meets and talks to locals, it becomes more and more clear that there is a lot more going on than was initially reported. A great listen from start to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dany
  • 2019-08-10

Very much enjoyed it!

Great narrator! Enjoyed this mystery/thriller slowly unraveling toward a satisfying ending. Really enjoyed the different "characters" and their lives in a tough climate and remote location. Well done!
Audible addict,
Santa Fe, NM

3 people found this helpful

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  • Joann
  • 2019-08-09

Complex Mystery

Hooked from chapter one. The intrigue remained intense throughout. Narrator added much to the audible edition.

3 people found this helpful

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  • NE124
  • 2019-05-29

A good yarn..

While events tend to pile on, a few on the side of incredulous, the story is compelling, the scrublands animate, and the narration augments the somewhat thin characterization with a saving vitality.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dennis
  • 2019-03-10

Wow! Excellent from beginning to end! 7 Stars!

I've listened to books everyday for several years and have several favorite authors but I'm seldom (ever? I don't recall..) moved to write a review. It usually seems others have echoed my thoughts. But Scublands is THAT good! The author captures your interest from the start and never lets up, weaving a complex but believable story throughout and expertly wrapping it all up at the end. And the performance was spot on, adding to the experience.

Bravo!! Please write more - a real gem rarely discovered.

3 people found this helpful