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Scrublands  By  cover art

Scrublands

By: Chris Hammer
Narrated by: Rupert Degas
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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

What listeners say about Scrublands

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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!

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28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

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17 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fully Satisfying

First Rupert Degas... while the writing is a novel’s soul - it’s in the reading reading when a personality, an identity is breathed into the audience’s mind. Oddly, the greater the actor/reader, the more s/he disappears, or seemingly becomes an opaque lens. Here, Degas demonstrates the super hero power of invisibility. Somehow you’re no longer aware of how he lets us peer without confusion into Chris Hammer’s complex conclusions about the human condition.


Hammer created a place, Rivers End, somewhere between the 19th century American High Plains and Australia’s today way-way-Outback: A spot I’ve now visited in Scrublands. With a cast who exist in an ensemble laid together like Inca building blocks - the ones so tightly carved that centuries later, without any joining mortar, they lay so tightly that the sharpest, thinnest razor cannot pierce a gap between them.


Just as gravity joins those boulders, so does Hammer’s sense of place, plot and story arc hold each of the tightly designed twists which fasten the soul of Scrublands into the whole that Degas reveals. Here’s a work of art and craft which makes me sad for whoever’s written or will read the next Audiobook I’ll buy. Scrublands will be a daunting act to follow.

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8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant!

Finishing this book was like returning from a vacation - gradually emerging from a captivating atmosphere, so vivid that I felt the heat, smelled the fire, and experienced all the flesh-crawling tension of that strange little town. I sincerely hope that Chris is planning a lot more books!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great narrator

Rupert Degas beautifully enlivens the characters that drive this complex story. The voices he creates are distinct. His female voices are the best I have heard a male produce. He maintains believable vocal tensions appropriate to the author’s paced reveals. I also appreciate that the author clearly develops the story without confusing time jumps that have become so popular. Really enjoyed this experience.

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6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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Good story, too many details

Good story, too many details sums up it up perfectly. It was an interesting twisty turny tale set in the outback of Australia. Be prepared for accent. If it annoys you, this narration will. But it's in keeping with the story. My problem with this, as many recent reads/listens is that there is too much detail that really does not move the story along. It seems like filler and I keep wondering where the editors are.

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Did not like in the least

I won’t go into specific spoilers of how ridiculous this book is, but I was recommended it as a fan of Jane Harper. Wish I had avoided it. I finished it out a duty to see how much more overpacked and overlong it could get and how unlikable the main character could be. The answer to all those questions is much. Narrator is good though and would listen to other books read by him. But I’ll avoid other books by the author.

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4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fizzled Ending

Wonderfully complex characters in an interesting story. Evocative atmosphere with sophisticated writing. But the ending was just a little too neat and seemed to go “splat” after building so well. The motivation & behavior of the priest was a bit suspect as well. Spectacular narrator.

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