Dirt Town

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Pub Date 23 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022

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'A heart-wrenching mystery' - Jane Harper, bestselling author of The Dry

'I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough' - Chris Whitaker, bestselling author of We Begin at the End

'A stunning debut' - Ann Cleeves

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town . . .

When twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.


As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.


The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.


Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper's The Dry and Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End.

'A heart-wrenching mystery' - Jane Harper, bestselling author of The Dry

'I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough' - Chris Whitaker, bestselling author of We Begin at the End

'A stunning debut' - Ann...

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ISBN 9781529080261
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Wow. Be warned. This is not the sort of book you can put down and pick up again and read in bits and pieces. It will have you addicted from the first sentence and you won't stop till you get to the final page.....

A young girl goes missing in a small, struggling Australian country town and the story of what happened is told from various perspectives including the children. Lots of very clever twists, wonderful language and imagery, and a look behind the masks we all wear every day.

Think a cross between The Dry, Jasper Jones and The Lovely Bones.

Just brilliant!

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In small town Australia, a child disappears and the rumour mill starts running. A familiar enough scenario, but here it has added impact with its superbly painted settings and close knit community of family, friends and a few enemies too. It’s easy enough for these familiar themes to become a bit repetitive in novels, , but that doesn’t happen here, with the story told from several different perspectives by several different people and groups. This is a device that works really well in the setting, and turns this book from what could be a rather ordinary mystery into a real atmospheric page turner. Other reviewers have compared Hayley Scrivenor with Jane Harper, but I think that does her something of a disservice - hers is an original voice which deserves to be heard without preconceptions.

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One of my books of the year so far, Dirt Town features spectacular writing, realistic characters and a tense, atmospheric plot that you simply cannot put down.

The sense of place is superb, the scene setting and multi layered viewpoint pops, the whole novel has a beautifully melancholy feel with small town claustrophobia and a page turning story.

Might well end up being my no 1 this year, we'll see but its definitely going to be up there. Highly Recommended.

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Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is the story of twelve-year-old Esther who goes missing on her way home from school in the small, rural, Australian town, Durton (a.k.a. Dirt Town). It's also the story of Durton's other children and their economically- and socially-challenged lives and friendships. The two city-detectives, Sarah and Smithy, who are assigned to the case uncover a drug operation. Initial investigations and interviews reveal little relating to Esther's disappearance with no clear suspects, motive, or even evidence of a kidnapping, murder or otherwise.

The story is well-written and is presented from multiple perspectives: Ronnie (Esther's best friend), Lewis (Esther's next-best friend), Esther's parents, and also Sarah (the lead detective) all reveal complex stories of their own. Each of these supporting characters have real and troubled relationships and lives that enrich the central story.

The author conveys the smallness and intensity of a rural community: inter-relatedness, long histories and unforgotten grievances, unhappy marriages and parenting struggles. But the author also conveys the innocence of children's perceptions of real life - of Esther's disappearance, single parenting, friendships, and fragile rural-Australian economics. The story of finding Esther is paced perfectly, with just the right amount of character and plot development to tempt the reader into reaching premature conclusions.

Dirt Town is a compelling and enjoyable story that kept me interested from start to finish.

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