All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

on October 28, 2021

Treasure & Dirt
Chris Hammer
Allen & Unwin
2021, 512p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable young people and billionaires do as they please.

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straightforward, not even who found the body. Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up and, if so, by whom?

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more secrets they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, as events from years ago take on a startling new significance.

For in Finnigans Gap, opals, bodies and secrets don’t stay buried for ever.

If you’ve read Chris Hammer’s other novels, you’ll be familiar with Ivan Lucic. He’s Detective Chief Inspector Morris Montifore’s offsider who regarded Martin Scarsden with suspicion and perhaps a bit of disdain as well but you definitely do not need to have read the Martin Scarsden trilogy to read this book. It’s a stand-a-lone although hopefully, we will see Ivan Lucic again in the future.

Although a homicide detective in Sydney, Ivan is sent to the remote mining/opal town of Finnigans Gap to investigate a murder, the victim found crudely crucified in his own mine. Originally supposed to be accompanied by Morris Montifore Ivan finds himself on the plane without his superior, heading to the middle of nowhere, a patch of desert with blistering heat and a community that has plenty of secrets.

I thought this was another riveting read from the first page. It’s a very slow burn crime novel and I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. It jut means that the author takes the time to set the scene, to construct the local area and the characters within it and gives the investigators roadblocks and obstacles during their investigation. It’s not a simple straightforward sort of case and the more people they talk to, the more they seem to uncover about weird goings on, strange cults, potential hostile takeovers and financial investment stuff that would be motive for a whole range of things.

One thing I love about Chris Hammer’s novels is that they always include a map of the local area which gives you such a great idea of where things are and the lay of the land and it’s really handy to refer back to when you start to wonder if it was possible for a character to have been in one place and then another within a certain period of time. The maps are always really well done and for me, they provide a wonderful addition to the reading experience where you’re not having to try and keep locations and relevance of them straight in your head.

This is set basically in the desert, a hot and dusty barren part of north-west New South Wales and the oppressive heat, including the danger of it, restricts the officers investigating occasionally. You can’t be out wandering around crime scenes, mapping things out, walking from one place to another – you’ll simply die. Ivan isn’t acclimatised either, unlike the young detective he’s been given to work with, Nell Buchanan. She served a few years at Finnegan’s Gap as a rookie and is now at a bigger nearby station. She’s keen to prove herself, especially because something happened when she was last in Finnegan’s Gap that left something of a cloud over her head and she would like to rid herself of it. She wants to like Ivan but finds him hard to read and the presence of a Professional Standards Detective lurking around has her wondering if she can trust him. If Lucic is bent, Nell cannot afford to be seen as someone associated with him.

I really enjoyed the way that Lucic and Buchanan worked together. They’d never met and Lucic is a bigwig from the city, sent to the middle of nowhere to investigate a place he’s never been in a situation he’s unfamiliar with. Buchanan knows the area, knows the people but she’s at the beginning of her detective career and she’s still got a lot to learn. She wants to like him and trust him and Lucic occasionally makes that hard for her – but sometimes, he also makes it easy. Nell has some conflicted feelings about Lucic and the sort of cop he might be, the sort of man he might be too. Regardless of some of these complex issues, the two worked really well together – Ivan also had her back during a difficult time for Nell and didn’t judge. I’m sure it can be a very difficult working environment for women, especially rurally, which Nell has experienced. To be honest, Nell needs every powerful ally she can get.

Ivan makes a decision at the end of the book which I definitely find intriguing and does strengthen my belief that we’ll see him again in another book in the future. I can’t wait for that. I hope Buchanan reappears too because I think they worked really well together. Another super enjoyable book that built the tension really well and gave both a satisfying ending and one that still left some potential for the future.


Book #189 of 2021

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