Quick Review – Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town Cover

Publisher: Macmillian (Trade Paperback – 31 May 2022)

Series: Standalone

Length: 359 0ages

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

Intriguing new author Hayley Scrivenor presents her powerful and excellent debut novel with the powerful and dramatic Australian mystery, Dirt Town.

Plot Synopsis:

My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle. We were twelve years old when she went missing.

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie’s going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can’t be gone, Ronnie won’t believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can’t reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther’s buried body is discovered.

What do we owe the girl who isn’t there?

Character-rich and propulsive, with a breathtakingly original use of voice and revolving points of view, Hayley Scrivenor delves under the surface, where no one can hide. With emotional depth and sensitivity, this stunning debut shows us how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.

Esther will always be a Dirt Town child, as we are its children, still.


Dirt
Town was a fantastic and clever novel that contains a lot of interesting elements and moving parts to it that I had an amazing time reading.  Set in the small Australian country town of Durton in late 2001, the crux of Dirt Town’s plot revolves around the sudden disappearance of local schoolgirl Esther, who vanishes on her way home.  The subsequent search and police investigation into the disappearance soon involves several different inhabitants of Durton, including Esther’s friends, family and other connections, many of whom are dragged into the case over the course of the following days.  The investigation and the eventual reveal of what happened to Esther slowly but surely tears the town of Durton apart, as everyone’s secrets come spilling out.

The story focuses on several intriguing protagonists, including Esther’s best friend, Ronnie, who attempts to find her without really realising what is going on; their fellow schoolmate Lewis, who witnessed something relevant to the case but is unable to say anything out of fear of being outed; the various relatives to the children; the cops that come to investigate; and more.  This strong focus on these complex characters allows Scrivenor to weave together a compelling and exciting tapestry of personal stories that are altered for the worse when Esther goes missing.  All the characters react to the disappearance in different ways, and the reader gets a deep and captivating look into their lives, which often reveal long-buried secrets, fears and insecurities that the investigation brings to the light.  At the same time, the hunt for the missing child reveals other crimes going on around Durton, and everyone is moved in some way by the events of the narrative.  The eventual reveal about what happened to Esther and who was involved is very intense, and I really loved the clever, heartbreaking twist that Scrivenor utilised here.  The author layers the story with some clues, but it is still shocking to see what unfolded, and the series of events that led up to it and followed from there.  Dirt Town ends with a satisfying, if very bittersweet, conclusion, and I really appreciate the impressive debut narrative the Scrivenor produced here.

This was a pretty moving and distinctive novel, as Scrivenor blends several genres together into a single riveting tale.  While mostly framed as a mystery novel, Dirt Town also has a strong drama aspect to it, especially when it comes to examining the lives and secrets of the various townsfolk.  This ensures that you get quite a lot of unique character interactions throughout Dirt Town, and it was very moving and powerful to see how everyone was impacted by the events of the plot, often in quite substantial and painful ways.  It is also a particularly good piece of rural Australian fiction, as Scrivenor, who grew up in a small country town herself, does an amazing job portraying the tight-knit community, isolated landscape, and the feeling of decline that many of these towns experience during times of hardship.  Scrivenor added in a distinctive, disassociated chorus narrator, which is essentially the joint voice of the town, which produces some poetic and insight examinations of the impacts that the case has on the town and its people, as well as providing compelling insights into how the town is generally faring.  These separate elements blend well into a captivating and moving story, and you can find yourself getting quite drawn into Dirt Town as a result.

Overall, I felt that Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was an outstanding and very distinctive debut novel, and one that sets Scrivenor up as an interesting rising talent in Australian fiction.  A recommended read, especially for those who love complex stories in Australia’s unmatched rural setting, Dirt Town was an outstanding book that is well worth checking out.

Amazon     Book Depository

WWW Wednesday – 3 August 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Darkening by Sunya Mara (Trade Paperback)

The Darkening Cover

I just started reading an intriguing new young adult fantasy novel today with The Darkening by Sunya Mara.  The Darkening is an intriguing and exciting novel set in a city surrounded by a magical storm that is slowly eating it away.  The story follows the daughter of a notorious rebel who joins the city’s elite magical guards to free him and get revenge on an evil prince.  I have made some decent progress on The Darkening and it is proving to be quite an awesome read with an outstanding story to it.  I am aiming to finish The Darkening off by the end of the week and I think this is going to turn out to be one of the better debuts of 2022.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon by Daniel Jose Older (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Midnight Horizon Cover

I have also recently started listening to the audiobook version of the cool Star Wars tie-in novel, Midnight Horizon.  Part of The High Republic sub-series, Midnight Horizon is a young adult read that follows a group of young Jedi as they investigate Nihil on the planet of Corellia.  A continuation of several other great young adult High Republic books, such as Into the Dark and Out of the Shadows, Midnight Horizon has an interesting story to it so far, and I am really powering through it.  This is another book that I am hoping to finish off by the end of the week, and I am very curious to see how Midnight Horizon ties into some of the other High Republic books out there, such as the pivotal novel, The Fallen Star, which was released around the same time.

What did you recently finish reading?

Warhammer: Vampireslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Vampireslayer Cover

 

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor (Trade Paperback)

Dirt Town Cover

 

Tribe by Jeremy Robinson (Audiobook)

Tribe Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 20 July 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison (Trade Paperback)

The Lawless Land Cover

I just started reading this impressive new historical fiction novel from the excellent team of Boyd and Beth Morrison.  Set in 1351, The Lawless Land follows an honourable and skilled knight who finds himself dragged into a massive conspiracy that seeks to engulf all of Europe.  I am already a major fan of this intense and captivating novel, and it is proving to be an excellent overall read.

 

The Omega Factor by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

The Omega Factor Cover

I have also just started listening to the new Steve Berry novel, The Omega Factor.  Berry, who has previously impressed me with his Cotton Malone novels (including The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocols and The Kaiser’s Web), has returned with another intriguing modern thriller focused on historical events that follows a new protagonist who gets caught in a war between two ancient and secret religious orders.  I haven’t gotten too far into The Omega Factor yet, but it is shaping up to be a very interesting and fun book.

What did you recently finish reading?

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kagen the Damned Cover

 

Conviction by Frank Chalmers (Trade Paperback)

Conviction Cover

 

The Law by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

The Law Cover

 

The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth (Trade Paperback)

The Crimson Thread Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 6 July 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Black River by Matthew Spencer (Trade Paperback)

Black River Cover

I’ve been in a bit of an Australian crime fiction mood recently so I just started reading the cool new Australian murder mystery novel, Black River.  The debut book from author Matthew Spencer, Black River follows the intense investigation into a series of murders in Sydney.  A powerful and dark read, I am pretty hooked on the compelling mystery at the moment and should hopefully finish this off soon.

 

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kagen the Damned Cover

I finally managed to start listening to the latest book from one of my favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry.  Taking a break from his usual horror and science fiction thriller novels, Maberry has dived into the epic fantasy genre in a big way with Kagen the Damned.  Following a despair riddled hero, the titular Kagen, as he attempts to get revenge for the dead royal family he served, this is an extremely dark novel, with a ton of brutal action and over-the-top violence in it.  I am already a few hours in and I am enjoying seeing the author’s transition to a new genre, as well as the compelling narrative Kagen the Damned contains.  I am extremely curious to see where the rest of the story goes, and this will probably end up being one of the best books I read all year.

What did you recently finish reading?

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister (Trade Paperback)

Wrong Place Wrong Time Cover

 

Warhammer 40,000Huron BlackheartMaster of the Maelstrom by Mike Brooks

Huron Blackheart Cover

 

Armored by Mark Greaney (Trade Paperback)

Armored Cover (2)

 

Wake by Shelley Burr (Trade Paperback)

Wake Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 7 December 2021

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  This includes an interesting collection of late 2021 book, as well as some releases from early 2022, all of which should make for fantastic reading.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below (indeed, I have already gotten through a couple), and they should make for some amazing reads.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

I got this one a few weeks ago and I was very happy when I did.  Timothy Zahn is the undisputed master of Star Wars extended fiction and his current Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, which has so far consisted of Chaos Rising and Greater Good, has been a detailed and fun-filled series.  As such, I have been really looking forward to the final entry, Lesser Evil, that highlights the exploits of the future Grand Admiral Thrawn amongst his own people.  I have already read this book and it is pretty damn awesome, review to follow soon.

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

Another recent arrival I have already read is It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts.  Shvarts, who did such a great job with his Royal Bastards series (check out my reviews of City of Bastards and War of the Bastards), once again presents a brilliant young adult fantasy novel.  It Ends in Fire has an amazing story that follows a powerful Wizard and rebel as she infiltrates a nation’s premier magic school in order to burn it down from the inside.  A fun and clever novel, I should have a review for it up tomorrow.

The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick

The Liar's Knot Cover

Earlier this year fantastic new author M. A. Carrick (joint penname of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms) wowed me with her first novel, The Mask of Mirrors, which contained a bold story about a con woman drawn into preserving her city.  I had a great time with this first book and I cannot wait to see what happens to the amazing characters and storylines next.

League of Liars by Astrid Scholte

League of Liars Cover 2

I was also very excited when I received a copy of the latest novel from bestselling Australian author Astrid Scholte.  This cool book has an awesome plot about a lawyer breaking several magically powered beings out a high security jail.  I love the sound of this amazing novel and I cannot wait to see what happens within.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster Cover

I also received the fantastic sound young adult fantasy novel Only a Monster by Vanessa Len.  Set to be one of the best debuts of 2022, Only a Monster follows a young woman who discovers that her family are actually monsters from legend, and must attempt to defend herself from a dangerous monster hunter.  I really like the sound of this cool read and I look forward to checking it out in the new year.

Resistance by Mara Timon

Resistance Cover

An intense and powerful historical fiction novel that follows the French Resistance during World War II.  I look forward to seeing what thrilling and compelling story this awesome book contains and I am sure that I am going to love it.

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town Cover

Another interesting 2022 debut, Dirt Town is an upcoming Australian crime fiction/drama novel set in small town Australia.  Dirt Town has a fantastic and deep sounding story about a missing girl and I am sure I am going to have a wonderful time reading this dramatic and powerful novel.

Exit .45 by Ben Sanders

Exit .45 Cover

I was very happy yesterday when I received this excellent sounding crime fiction novel, Exit .45 by Ben Sanders.  It looks like Sanders will be bringing back his protagonist Marshall Grade for another exciting adventure, this time involving corrupt cops and deadly murders.  I am very intrigued to read this novel and I already know I am going to love it.

All or Nothing by Ollie Ollerton

All or Nothing Cover

The final novel I received was the awesome thriller All or Nothing by former special forces operative Ollie Ollerton.  This second book in the Alex Abbott series will take its protagonist on an exciting and dangerous infiltration mission.  I look forward to reading this fantastic sounding novel and I reckon I will be in for a fast-paced and ultra-exciting time.

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.