SCRUBLANDS – read an extract

Find out more about the no. 1 Australian bestseller and gripping crime debut - SCRUBLANDS. Watch the trainer and read the prologue of Chris Hammer's gripping crime debut!

Posted on December 17, 2018 in Extract
Tags: Australia, Chris Hammer, Extract, Scrublands

‘A heatwave of a novel, scorching and powerful… Extraordinary’ AJ Finn

A powerful, compelling, vividly written Australian crime novel that will be perfect for fans of Peter May and Jane Harper.

Watch the trailer here



The day is still. The heat having eased during the night is building again; the sky is cloudless and unforgiving, the sun punishing. Across the road, down by what’s left of the river, the cicadas are generating a wall of noise, but there’s silence surrounding the church. Parishioners begin to arrive for the eleven o’clock service, parking across the road in the shade of the trees. Once three or four cars have arrived, their occupants emerge into the brightness of the morning and cross the road, gathering outside St James to make small talk: stock prices, the scarcity of farm water, the punitive weather. The young priest, Byron Swift, is there, still dressed casually, chatting amiably with his elderly congregation. Nothing seems amiss; everything appears normal.

Craig Landers, owner and manager of Riversend’s general store, approaches. He’s going hunting with his mates, but they’ve stopped by the church so he can have a few words with the priest beforehand. His friends have tagged along. Like Craig, none of them are regular churchgoers. Gerry Torlini lives down in Bellington and doesn’t know any of the parishioners, so he returns to his four-wheel drive, but local farmers Thom and Alf Newkirk mingle, as does Horrie Grosvenor. Alf’s son Allen, surrounded by people more than three times his age, joins Gerry in the cab of his truck. If anyone thinks the men look incongruous in their shooting gear, a strange mix of camouflage and high-vis, no one says so.

The priest sees Landers and walks over. The men shake hands, smile, exchange a few words. Then the priest excuses himself, and enters the church to prepare for the service and don his vestments. Having said his piece, Landers is keen to leave, but Horrie and the Newkirks are deep in conversation with some farmers, so he walks towards the side of the church, seeking shade. He’s almost there when the babble of conversation abruptly ceases; he turns to see the priest has emerged from the church and is standing at the top of the short flight of steps. Byron Swift has changed into his robes, crucifix glinting as it catches the sun, and he’s carrying a gun, a high-powered hunting rifle with a scope. It makes no sense to Landers; he’s still confused as Swift raises the gun to his shoulder and calmly shoots Horrie Grosvenor from a distance of no more than five metres. Grosvenor’s head ruptures in a red cloud and his legs give way. He falls to the ground like a sack, as if his bones no longer exist. Conversation stops, heads turn. There’s a silent moment as people struggle for comprehension. The priest fires again, another body falls: Thom Newkirk. There is no screaming, not yet, but there is panic, silent desperation as people start running. Landers bolts for the corner of the church as another shot goes screaming out into the world. He rounds
the end of the wall, gaining momentary safety. But he doesn’t stop running; he knows it’s him the priest most wants to kill.


Scrublands is available now



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