15 May 2020

Guest review: Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver by Chris Hammer cover
I reviewed Silver by Chris Hammer back in October 2019, however in the recent lockdown I've been lending some books to my neighbour and fellow bibliophile, retired academic Neil Bechervaise. When Neil shared his thoughts on Silver with me, I wanted to share his insight with you too. Thanks Neil!

Murder, corruption, professional jealousy and loosely bent laws. Now what else could we expect from a coming-of-age novel set in a coastal New South Wales village as it drags across its 563 pages of essential hurdles from rural farmland to 21st century tourist mecca? Well, of course, there’s suicide, infidelity, drugs, a swami of mixed origins, a criminally over-protective mother, a drunken, grieving father and an illegal immigration racket to bring in the immigrant backpackers.

It can be argued that Chris Hammer’s second novel, shortlisted for the 2020 ABIA awards, is a complex whodunnit with a poetic depth of understanding of grief and an almost mischievous focusing on the interaction of police and press when the going gets tough.

In brief, when former journalist cum author, Martin returns to Port Silver, the town of his childhood to live with his new partner, the stunningly beautiful Mandy, he walks through the door and, being an experienced journalist, steps carefully over a corpse, stabbed in the back and still bleeding across the floor. Finding no pulse, he phones the ambulance and then the police. Hands now bloodied, he looks up to see Mandy sitting in shock on the sofa, her hands similarly bloodied.

Setting out to clear Mandy (Mandalay Blonde), the chief suspect, Martin embarks on an increasingly complicated search for the real killer. Exposing a plot to buy otherwise unusable waterfront land for development, Martin slowly reveals the truths of his own unhappy childhood, the relationship between a fake swami, a scam providing backpackers with drugs and visas for sex and silver (dollars) and a former surf champion, now running a wellness centre.

The story can only get more complicated, the landscape requiring a map of the town and surrounds (printed at the start of the novel) to reveal the tortuous twists in the tracks that Martin must follow and the paths his newly revealed relatives routinely ride to peddle their illegally harvested marine life.

At times elegantly written, at times poignantly puzzled and at times starkly savage, Silver provides a satisfying trail of corpses, a revelation of real estate corruption and crime in a small-town that is building towards a vastly different future. How the internationally experienced journalist will regain and maintain his reputation while supporting his new mate, Mandy and her baby son in this rural backwater remains a story to be revealed.

I found the novel to be overlong, at times, overwritten and generally over-complicated. Despite this, by the time the story really begins to claim its reader’s attention (at about page 300), the character of the town and the natures of the major protagonists is fairly clear. Some unexpected revelations and complications are yet to be revealed but the pages of description of the town, its history and its current state of development have taken effect. The denouement will be disposed in a few final pages and the reader will be able to surface from the shark-plagued swamp that edges the town to breathe another thriller.

Reviewed by Neil Béchervaise May, 2020

Neil's Rating:
★ ★

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!