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 about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don’t fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can’t ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest’s deadly rampage.
Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.
Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.
Scrublands is another top read of this year for me, entirely consuming from the moment I started it, beautifully descriptive writing in both character and setting plus an extraordinarily immersive story.
Martin is an engaging character with realistic fault lines running through his personality- as he gets more and more involved with the small town, so indeed does the reader. The author captures the sense of place wonderfully, the eclectic occupants facing tragedy in their own ways. You can feel the heat and the dark underbelly of a town collapsing, the emotional core of Scrublands is addictively traumatic..
There’s a strong mystery element with subtle twists that leads you to a stunningly edgy conclusion, the themes at the heart of Scrublands are cleverly thought provoking. When I finished it I felt like I had left a little of myself in Riversend, certainly I think this is a novel I will return to.
Nuanced and strangely beautiful, Scrublands is a brilliant read and comes very highly recommended from me.