The Tilt (aka Dead Man’s Creek) is Chris Hammer’s fifth novel and Book 2 in new crime series starring detectives Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan. Read my review.
The Tilt (aka Dead Man’s Creek) Synopsis
A man runs for his life in a forest.
A woman plans sabotage.
A body is unearthed.
Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.
But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?
The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?
(Allen & Unwin, October 2022)
Genre: Crime-Detective, Mystery, Historical, Drama
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That I still routinely come across readers not familiar with Chris Hammer’s novels, is a mystery to me… and just as criminal as the deeds he writes about. Since 2018, this supremely talented author has somehow delivered first-class thrillers on an annual basis, and with this year’s offering The Tilt (will be published internationally as Dead Man’s Creek in January 2023) he continues his strong run.
After the success of his crime series starring investigative journalist Martin Scarsden, last year Hammer introduced readers to a new pairing of detectives Lucic and Buchanan in the Treasure & Dirt (aka Opal Country). Ivan Lucic is enigmatic and bridges the Scarsden series’ storyworld with this new one, but I loved Nell Buchanan from the moment she was introduced. From that review:
“Nell is such an authentically strong female lead – she is tough, not cowed by male patriarchy and determined to succeed, but at the same time she is highly intuitive and empathetic. She acknowledges and owns her emotions.”
So, I was very pleased to see the spotlight turn her way in this sequel. Once again, her local knowledge comes to the fore, and we learn a whole lot more about her personal backstory.
Historical fault lines have often been key literary ingredients in Hammer’s finely crafted crime mysteries. But in The Tilt, alternating historical narratives actually take centre stage when the case Lucic and Buchanan are sent to investigate turns very cold. Interestingly though, so too does an actual geological fault along which seismic activity created a land formation known as The Cadell Tilt, damming The Murray River long before large-scale agriculture.
Once again I found myself applauding Hammer’s deft character development and atmospheric evocation of time, place and mood. The latter is such a standout for me in his writing, that I’ve come to look forward to the opening of each chapter… never showy, but always clever.
“Saturday came, hot and oppressive, just a couple of weeks before the end of school and the long summer break. The weather wasn’t waiting for the calendar to turn the page on the seasons: the fields were brown and the flies were thick, the cicadas were chorusing and the tank water was growing more tepid with each passing day.”
In Chris Hammer’s The Tilt, what at first appears simple and contained blossoms into an uncommonly moving criminal mystery worthy of the Russian-doll analogy, and more importantly, worthy of a spot on any book lover’s reading pile.
I cannot wait for the next instalment in this Buchanan & Lucic Series!
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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More Dead Man’s Creek reviews
‘Ominous, pacy and intricately plotted. The Tilt hits the ground running and never lets up. Hammer’s best yet!’ – Emma Viskic, author of Those Who Perish
‘With its gripping, multi-layered mysteries, vivid characters and atmospheric setting, this is an immersive read, I highly recommend.’ – Book’d Out
‘Like everything Chris Hammer writes, The Tilt is a rich, complex thriller, packed with detail and intrigue. There’s a reason why this guy is on my auto-read list!’ – Christian White, author of The Nowhere Child
‘… a very impressive and enjoyable crime novel. I really liked the depth of the plot and the immersive nature of the historical descriptions, and the ending packed a good punch. Some trimming would have enhanced the tension, but overall it is a stand-out crime novel.’ – Murder, Mayhem & Long Dogs
About the Author, Chris Hammer
Chris Hammer is a leading Australian author of crime fiction. His first book, Scrublands, was an instant bestseller when it was published in mid-2018. It won the prestigious UK Crime Writers Association John Creasy Award for a debut crime novel in 2019 and was shortlisted for various awards in Australia and the United States.
Scrublands has been sold into translation in several foreign languages and is being developed for television. His follow up books – Silver (2019), Trust (2020) and Treasure & Dirt (2021) – are also bestsellers and all have been shortlisted for major literary prizes.
Before turning to fiction, Chris was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. He reported from more than 30 countries on six continents with SBS TV, while in Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, senior writer for The Age and Online Political Editor for Fairfax. He has also written two non-fiction books The River (2010) and The Coast (2012). He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. Check out his website or connect with him on Facebook.
This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2022.
* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.