SILVER by Chris Hammer, Book Review: Literary determination

Silver is Chris Hammer’s compelling sequel to his debut novel Scrublands, which won the 2019 CWA Dagger New Blood Award for Best First Crime Novel. Read on for our review.

Silver Book Synopsis

Silver by Chris Hammer, ReviewFor half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever-present.

An enthralling and propulsive thriller from the acclaimed and bestselling author of Scrublands.

(Allen & Unwin – October 2019)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Mystery, Thriller, Drama

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Chris Hammer’s latest release Silver, although a sequel to his award-winning debut, provides sufficient backstory to read very enjoyably as a standalone novel. However in hindsight, I should have picked up Scrublands first, because it is now obvious I missed out on another great read!

Scrublands - Chris HammerHammer’s evocative opening, a brief but poignant childhood memory sequence, hooks readers immediately. With it, he managed to imbue such depth and openness, yet also intrigue, into a lead character that was entirely new to me.

Battle-scarred Martin Scarsden’s first-person narrative is highly engaging. The haunting trauma of past events and inner conflict felt authentic, as did his depth of feeling for his new partner and her son Liam. Less intensive, but no less skilful, is Hammer’s characterisation of the colourful Port Silver locals.

Hard-nosed journalism meets literary flair

Early on, I was struck by the literary quality of Hammer’s descriptive passages. Gravitas via simile abounds, as do beautiful depictions of Australia’s rugged coastline and its surrounds. Although, I did wonder how this writing style might mesh with the hard-nosed investigative tactics required to unravel the lies and deception that plagued Port Silver.

The answer? I felt the expansive prose style and plot detail dampened reader tension a little at times. However, the way Hammer juxtaposes Martin’s gritty determination and confidence (even cockiness) in crime investigation with his feelings of inadequacy in his new relationship and patience and attentiveness when caring for Liam, is far more successful.

While the complexity and scale of Port Silver’s small-town deceptions provided ample intrigue, it was lead Martin Scarsden’s personal growth and adult-awakening that I found most compelling.

Silver is entertaining, deeply human crime fiction from another talented Australian author.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  — Overall 4.25

Get your copy of Chris Hammer’s Silver from:

Amazon Booktopia (AU)

Update: I have since read Book 3 in this series, Trust, and it’s even better! His subsequent novels Treasure & DirtThe Tilt and The Seven (new series starring detectives Lucic & Buchanan) are highly recommended reading also.

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About the Author, Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than thirty countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award. Scrublands, his second book, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for Best Debut Fiction at the Indie Book Awards.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2019.