24 June 2022

Review: Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

I've read and reviewed all three of Chris Hammer's novels in the Martin Scarsden series (Scrublands, Silver and Trust) so it was refreshing to read a new stand alone novel from this beloved Aussie author. I should note that my copy arrived last year along with a signed book plate and letter from the author thanking me for participating in the blog tour for Trust. The letter also acknowledged the work book bloggers do to champion books and inspire people to read more. During the many lockdowns in Australia and abroad, authors weren't able to attend book launches, festivals or signings and the importance of book reviewers has been touchingly recognised here. This was such a wonderful gesture by the author and the publisher that I felt it was worthy of another mention here. Now, onto the book!

Located in a fictional town in outback NSW where the elements will literally kill you, Finnigans Gap is full of opal miners and men intent on making their fortune. Ivan is a Homicide Detective from Sydney who draws the short straw to travel to Finnigans Gap and run a murder enquiry. Nell did 2 years as a copper in Finnigans Gap and has been recalled from her station in Bourke to assist Ivan.

It was a surprising choice to have Martin Scarsden popping up in the background of this novel as a somewhat disgraced journalist who caused a lot of trouble in the media. It was an interesting choice and I'm not sure I saw the point; other than a cool cross-over. Perhaps it's a story seed for the next Scarsden novel? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Hammer does do an excellent job of describing the environment and surrounds at Finnigans Gap, and even though it's winter at the moment, I almost started sweating along with Ivan as he navigated his way around the place. Having said that, I did think there were too many in depth character reflections and too much observational nature writing for me and I was impatient for the story to keep plowing on.

Ivan and Nell keep digging and quickly discover that the mining culture is cut throat, town politics are heated and secrets abound. The whodunnit/whydunnit murder mystery played out well, but the ending was a little convoluted for me. The characters are mining for opals and this reader was mining for pearls or gold nuggets and I suspect we all walked away with a little less in our pockets at the conclusion of Treasure & Dirt than we expected. Isn't that the miner's way?

Recommended for fans of intelligent Aussie crime fiction with a distinctly Australian outback setting and clear sense of place.

My Rating:

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