Cover Image: Opal Country

Opal Country

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Member Reviews

This gritty outback noir is a gripping read. Set in Finnigans Gap in New South Wales, Australia, the case of the crucified opal miner, Jonas McGee, was intriguing, with lots of twists and turns, and I had no idea what had happened and who was responsible.

There was obviously some corruptness and things we weren’t being told and there were some clever elements of misdirection to put the reader off the scent.

There was a great sense of place and brilliant descriptions of the claustrophobic environment – I could really imagine the heat, flies and dust. I didn’t know anything about the location or opals so it all made for fascinating and intense reading.

I liked the two main characters, Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic and Detective Constable Narelle (Nell) Buchanan, and I hope we get to hear more about them in another book.

My first Chris Hammer book and I will definitely have to read his others now!
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I read Chris Hammer for the visceral sense of location that I know I’m going to get. Like his other books, I was transfixed by the remote atmosphere as well as a thrilling storyline that had me utterly gripped from start to finish.
Opal Country is brilliantly character driven, by an author who is now one of my go-to favourites.
Australian outback noir at its absolute best.
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Intelligent, thought-provoking Australian noir fiction. Well developed plot with captivating characters and constantly shifting red herrings. The setting is so well described that it becomes a character in the story. Highly recommend.
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In a small outback town in north-western New South Wales, Australia, a body is found. A man has died inside an opal mine, discovered by a group of ratters who were planning to steal opals from his mine. It’s a shocking sight as the man’s body has been displayed in a way that strongly suggests he’d gone out the hard way. A detective from Sydney, Ivan Lucic, is sent out to investigate and on site he’s met by Nell Buchanan an eager young officer from a nearby town who is to assist him. 

The town of Finnigans Gap (loosely based on the real life town of Lightening Ridge) is a nest of eager and obsessive fortune seekers, a group of religious fanatics and, occasionally, a couple of mining billionaires with sketchy pasts and a loathing for each other. Information is hard to come by and at least one of the local cops is downright hostile towards Ivan and especially Nell. Add to this the fact that Lucic quickly learns that he’s become part of an internal investigation which threatens his future in the police force and you have a truly combustible mix.

Hammer creates the atmosphere of the place brilliantly: the scorching heat, the sheer remoteness of this unforgiving town, it’s tough and sometimes recalcitrant inhabitants. And he brings alive the jeopardy of opal mining in such a way that I became totally fascinated by this lonely and surprisingly basic operation. Lucic and Nell are well developed characters and I enjoyed how their working relationship is grown – a sometimes bumpy road, this. So the bones of a good story are certainly here, the only element that gives me pause is that the deeper I got into it the more strands seemed to appear. Is it possible to deliver a coherent tale from so many tangled threads?

Some will no doubt disagree with me on this point but in my view the sheer number of linked elements inevitably leads to a complex and slightly cluttered finish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable mystery with an interesting location and a great cast. It’s just that once the lid is lifted it’s clear that there was just too much going on in this small town. Well, a bit too much for me to swallow in one hit anyway.

I’d still be happy to award this book 4 stars as I did enjoy my time with it. I also liked the fact that Hammer created a link with his Martin Scarsden books through his use of a couple of characters who regular readers will have come across before. I’ll definitely be back for more from this author: his settings, his characters and in fact the who vibe of his stories offer something distinctly different to crime fiction set in the UK, America or just about anywhere else.
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I've never read anything by Chris Hammer before but I am definitely encouraged to read more after finishing Opal Country. Hammer's writing is brilliant. It is so descriptive that I could picture absolutely every scene, something which is important for a novel set in a remote part of Australia, somewhere with which I wasn't at all familiar. The description of the mining practices are also very detailed and I enjoyed learning more about this subject which was previously completely unknown to me. 

I enjoyed meeting Ivan and Nell and I liked the way they seemed to bounce off each other. Both characters have colourful pssts and interesting secrets and I loved delving deeper into their back stories. I'm not sure if there are plans for a series but there are definitely plenty of places where the author could take these characters. 

Hammer's plotting is very intelligent and I loved being taken on a journey through all the different twists and turns. I really enjoyed trying to piece everything together to work out what had happened - and got it completely wrong!
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This is my first Chris Hammer book. It was very well written and very atmospheric - I felt as if I was stuck out in the emptiness of the Australian desert, and felt accordingly uncomfortable.

It took me a solid 30% of the book to begin to feel invested in the story. The first third was so deep and rich in atmosphere and background detail that I had trouble keeping up. Once that first major confrontation takes place, though, the pace changed abruptly for me, and I found myself enjoying it more.

There are so many additional story lines along side "Who killed Jonas McGee?", and while they are all tied together in the end, I couldn't fully explain to you what happened. It was a bit too complex for my taste -- I love the intrigue, but lose a bit of interest when I can't keep a handle on all of the characters and plot lines.

This book will appeal to readers who love figuring out a complex puzzle of a plot. 3.5/5 stars for me.
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Opal Country by Chris Hammer is an atmospheric thriller that is haunting in its descriptions. The location of Finnigan’s Gap is created almost as another character – lonely, dirty, dusty, unforgiving – and I believe this is what draws you into the novel. 

The character development follows the descriptions of the location (isolated, lonely) and the weather (dry, hot) and they are intricately linked. As you get to know the harsh, unforgiving town and its inhabitants better, so you get to know Ivan, Nell, Jonas, Elsie, the Seer etc…more intimately. Each character is almost an identifying characteristic of this town. I loved this!

There are a few story threads running concurrently, and how they merge in the end to become one comprehensive tale is just brilliant. Mr. Hammer takes complex ideas and ties them all together so smoothly. 

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it is not the last. If you love mysteries and thrillers, if you love crime stories with detectives, then you’ll love this book!

#netgalley #opalcountry #chrishammer #headline
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A brilliantly written book that is clever and so descriptive- I could almost feel the heat coming out of the pages! The characters were all so well developed yet had their flaws that it really worked well in tieing the story together. My mind churned out lots of suspiciouns and ideas that constantly changed as the story progressed.
There's lots of little subplots that are beautifully linked and brought together at the end. I've never read this author before but definitely will now.
 This is a definite 5 star read!!
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I’ve loved every book so far by Chris Hammer, and am so thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review Opal Country by the publishers Wildfire Books. Thank you so much. 🙏

We start the story in the outback of Australia, at night, with a team of ratters entering a mine in the dead of night, what they find is a hideously crucified, Christ-like, corpse instead of Opals and makes them retreat pretty sharpish!

We then follow Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic, who as a homicide, detective has travelled from Sydney to investigate the horrible murder.

Chris Hammer manages to weave a really complex storyline involving Opal mining, family, murder, corporate espionage, revenge and the ending of Police Careers, into a phenomenal story, that had me guessing right up to the end as to whom the culprit was, and more importantly why?

The way Chris writes about Australia, the shimmering heat, the oppressiveness of a small town, the community divided by gossip, fears and history is without a doubt brilliant. I could feel myself getting sweaty and anxious in some parts with the relentless sun beating own onto Finnegans Creek.

There are some players from the previous novels in here, even though it’s a standalone, but that just makes it all the better!

And the inclusion of a Map always means it will be a great book in my experience!

Another fantastic 5 ⭐️ start slice of Aussie Noir from the master or Australian Crime Writing, in my opinion..
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Another great read from Chris Hammer.  Definitely one of my favourites by this author.  What I think Chris manages to do with his writing is perfectly create the atmosphere of the location which helps bring the story alive and forms a significant part of the overall story.  The location helps give depth to the characters as you can literally feel the heat and desperation of some of the main players.  This book is so well plotted.  There a lot of layers to this story in terms of storyline, and characters, that are all perfectly and  intricately woven  together that just works.  Now I just have to wait for the next one.
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Excellent character driven crime that always intrigues and impresses to the end. I was disappointed that Martin Scarsbrick wasn’t in this one in person although mentioned but really this didn’t matter. The dry heat of Australia is almost touchable and the desperate lives of miners who want to make their fortunes are made real. Never disappoints.
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This is the latest thriller from the award winning Chris Hammer, a cracking standalone outback noir, set in the blistering, unforgiving heat, dust, and flies of Australia's opal country, and the small mining town of Finnegan's Gap, where many chase the elusive dream of unearthing valuable opals, including the desperate and thieves known as ratters. DS Ivan Lucic, has been part of a lauded police investigations team with DI Morris Montifore, but they have upset powerful interests that are now gunning for them. As Montifore comes under the intense scrutiny of Professional Standards, Lucic finds himself making his way to Finnegan's Gap where a local miner has been found crucified. Under severe pressure, Lucic has to come out of Montifore's shadow and prove his worth as the lead homicide detective, aided by DC Nell Buchanan, an ambitious but inexperienced police officer with local knowledge, but are they both being set up to fail?

The victim Jonas McGee is estranged from his daughter, Elsie, has a tragic history in which he killed his wife and her sister in a car crash, for which he served a prison sentence, and came out with a new religious fervour and a desire to atone. Why would anyone want to crucify him? Lucic becomes acquainted with The Rapture, a fundamentalist religious cult led by the fanatic, judgemental, and over confident 'Seer'. There are 2 politically powerful mining billionaires locked in an intense rivalry, geologist Robert 'Bullshit Bob' Inglis, and Cattamulla Coal owner, Delaney Bullwinkel. Could the ratters who discovered Jonas's body have some vital information? As Montifore accepts his fate, pushed out of the police force, time is running out for Lucic and Nell, harrowing secrets emerge from the long forgotten past, and as they get closer to Jonas's killer, will justice prevail?

Hammer specialises in writing intricate complex crime novels, his journalist Martin Scarsden is referenced here, and allegations concerning him are part of the case built against Montifore. The atmospheric location itself is a central character, Finnegan's Gap is a town that has claimed more that one police officer's career, a place where the dreams of many have died, where people struggle to make ends meet, bake under the merciless and deadly sun, and opals are becoming increasingly harder to find. I very much liked the central characters, Lucic is a flawed man who finds to difficult to let people into his life, and has a gambling habit, but he and Nell slowly develop a partnership that becomes strong enough to help break the case. This is superb Aussie noir, it is a dark, engaging, intense, and riveting crime read that I think many crime, mystery and thriller readers will love. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
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One of the most reliable writers out there, the talented Chris Hammer continues to carry the torch of excellence with Opal Country. Technically a standalone, this novel actually dovetails into the previous Martin Scarsden books as its focused on Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic, a man we know a bit of, being subordinate to Detective Inspector Morris Montifore. Here, Ivan is the guy leading the hunt and we get to know him jolly well as he heads out to remote Finnigans Gap near the Queensland border. A body of an opal miner has been found crucified in his mine so Ivan and his team must investigate with the help of local Detective Constable Narelle Buchanan.

As you would expect, there are many plates spinning in the air of Opal Country. Not just the mystery behind what happened to Jonas McGee, deceased miner, but a number of additional subplots. A Chris Hammer novel may seem misleadingly placid on the surface but beneath the waterline all sorts of complex mayhem is occurring. An explosive mix of tension, historical misdeeds, politics and hatred.  Not to be missed.
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Opal Country by Chris Hammer

First time read by this author. I think the author described the outback in such a way , I could feel the heat and the dust in my eyes.
Lots of twists and turns and a good storyline.
It was also very interesting to read about a hard life and the mining of gems in Australia.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Headline for the eARC.  

Finnegans Gap - a dusty opal mining town in the back of beyond populated by a clutch of eccentric and desperate characters.  
Opal mining is an uncertain business - the real money is in the open cut coal mine along the track, or the rare earth mineral outfit across the salt lake.  
When a local miner with a chequered past is found crucified, homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent from Sydney to investigate.  Needless to say Lucic's past is chequered and his present is complicated.  Has he been sent because he's a good detective, or because those in power want him out of the way?  
He's assigned a young junior detective from the nearest big town, who knows the area well.  That may turn out to be a hindrance as much as a help.  

This book is amazing from the beginning, with fantastic description of the sights and smells and bone-crushing heat of opal country, the characters that inhabit such places, the desperate gamble of trying to make a living any way you can, and the effects of the bigger mining concerns.  Always, always politics and power come into play.  It's a slow burn but I was totally immersed.  It took me back over 30 years and 10000 miles to my brief time working in towns like Finnegans'.
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Opal Country (published in some jurisdictions as Treasure and Dirt) is another fantastic book by Chris Hammer. 

An Opal miner is found dead in his mine by ratters (people who break into mines and try to plunder them). Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic is despatched from Sydney to the tiny outback town of Finnegan’s Gap to investigate. He expects to be partnered by his senior officer but politics are at play meaning that Lucic has to rely on the local police to help him solve the case. 

Chris Hammer brings us another atmospheric and cleverly crafted thriller. The heat is stifling, the characters all well penned and the plot whizzes along. I absolutely loved it. This is a stand-alone but has nods to Chris Hammer’s previous thriller which centre on the journalist Martin Scarsden. A strong 4.5* and Chris Hammer continues to be on my must read/must pre-order list. 

Thanks to Allen & Unwin, Headline, Wildfire and Netgalley for an ARC. The same review has been posted against Treasure and Dirt.
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I have really enjoyed reading previous books by Chris Hammer and was delighted to receive a copy of his new book Opal Country.
A body is found nailed to a cross in an Opal mine. The local police and homicide officers are sent to investigate.
The story was slow to start but had lots of interesting characters with secrets and long held grudges.
Thank you to NetGalley and Headline for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Headline for an advance copy of Opal Country, a stand-alone novel featuring Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic of the New South Wales Homicide Division.

When the body of Jonas McGee is found crucified in his opal mine Lucic is sent north to the town of Finnegan’s Gap. Aided only by rookie detective Nell Buchanan he finds more than he bargained for, untangling the secrets, alliances and historical grudges in the small town.

I thoroughly enjoyed Opal Country, which is a meaty read with plenty to chew on. I must admit that it didn’t immediately grab me, as, despite the discovery of the body, it is slow to start with a kind of scattergun approach, a little bit of everything but nothing particularly substantial. Once, however, it gets going it’s like a juggernaut with reveal after reveal, plot expansions where the murder investigation sometimes takes a back seat and maybe not twists, more like unexpected turns. It becomes compelling reading, especially as I was sure I had the motive sussed early on. How wrong could I be? Very.

This is a novel with a sweep as wide as the landscape. It starts with a bizarre murder and runs through, in no particular order, friction with the local police, theft, drugs, a local cult, a billionaires’ feud, lots of family secrets and a more than passing interest from Internal Affairs. How the author ties it all together is nothing short of miraculous and he does it with style. I was mightily impressed by the way he ties it all together. That is the plot, but there’s more to the novel than that. The picture of Finnegan’s Gap, a town down on its luck with no obvious way out, is evocative, from the poverty to the searing heat via the oddball inhabitants and their coping mechanisms. The reader gets a real picture of the problems.

The characterisation is strong. Those who have read the author’s previous novels will recognise Ivan Lucic, but this is a different Lucic, fleshed out and more vulnerable. He’s not a soft touch, but equally he’s not the boor I thought of him as. He’s a nuanced individual with a strong desire for justice. His sidekick, Nell Buchanan is less easy to read. She is a smart thinker, many of the investigative breakthroughs are due to her, but she makes a stupid mistake and pays the price. I like both of them and would gladly spend more time with them.

Opal Country is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
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I admit from the top, I am a fan of Chris Hammer's writing and Opal County is no exception. This book although a standalone novel is linked to his previous Martin Scarsden trilogy through the main protagonist Detective Ivan Lucic. Lucic is sent to an outback New South Wales opal mining town to investigate the murder of a miner found crucified down his opal mine.
This is not a straight forward story with twists and subplots including quarreling billionaires, long held grudges and Lucic being pressured by Internal Affairs for leaks to the press.in previous cases.. The characters are well rounded, you can feel the heat and desolation of the setting in the writing and put together everything is woven into a well written tale which kept me engaged from first page to last.. 
Be Chris Hammer's next book more on Martin Scarsden , Ivan Lucic or completely new characters I look forward to reading it.
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This is the first Chris Hammer book that I have read, but it won't be the last - so pleased to have discovered this author. Opal Country is set in the heat and dust of an opal mining community, where tensions are high and rivalries are common. A death at the beginning of the book sets our detectives off exploring many leads - are some of them just red herrings, or are they all inter-connected in some way? We are kept in the dark until the closing pages of the novel, and the answer is never self-evident. A great read.
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