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BookBrowse Reviews Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

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Dirt Creek

A Novel

by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor X
Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2023, 336 pages

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A vivid character-driven mystery set in small-town Australia.

Dirt Creek is Hayley Scrivenor's debut novel. An earlier version of this mystery won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and made the shortlist for the Penguin Literary Prize. Our First Impressions reviewers gave the book an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

What the book is about:

Dirt Creek is set in the small town of Durton, Australia. Its adult inhabitants have known each other since they were children. They remember each misdeed and past transgressions are not forgiven. These adults have children they profess to love but often their parenting is inadequate or is physically or verbally abusive. The book is written in varying points of view alternating between the adults and their children…A girl goes missing and Detective Michaels and her partner are assigned to find her. The search for Esther reveals a hidden side of the past of the adults. The author does an excellent job of having the reader suspect one flawed adult after another and the suspense mounts (MaryJane B).

Readers found themselves immediately hooked by Scrivenor's style and characters.

During the pandemic it's been a challenge to find novels that hooked me from page one — Dirt Creek did. As Jane Harper, another terrific Australian author, wrote about the book, it's "a stellar debut," and that was one of the things that amazed me — how impressive Hayley Scrivenor's first novel is! (Barbara F). Hooked from the first page, I became deeply involved with each character. Esther's presence is felt even though she is already absent. The writing style and language are mesmerizing (Martha G).

They loved the mystery element of the story, including how it brought out nuances of the people and place depicted.

I don't usually read mysteries but Dirt Creek is an excellent read! I did not want to put it down until I found out what really happened to Esther (Mary Jane D). It is interesting for its structure and amazing for its beautiful prose and engaging storytelling. While a murder mystery on the surface, it is also a story about a small town and its people (Janine S). I have read quite a few novels about how the death or disappearance of a child affects a community but this one is a cut above. It takes place in a small Australian town where everyone is connected to each other, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere of doubt and suspicion (Margot P).

A few reviewers found certain aspects of the character development and plot unsatisfactory.

I did think that Sarah, one of the main characters, was underdeveloped (Charlene D). I was disappointed in the ending, but I have to admit it was unique and will give the author credit for creating an unusual conclusion (Joyce W).

But others lavished the book with praise, and multiple readers drew favorable comparisons to Jane Harper's work.

As a librarian, I will definitely be ordering this book and recommending it to patrons who enjoy crime fiction and authors such as Jane Harper and Liane Moriarty. As a reader, I hope this is the first of many from this author (Holly H). You've read it before — a small town that hides big secrets that burst to the surface when a young person goes missing or is slain. Two books that instantly come to mind are The Dry by Jane Harper and Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. Hayley Scrivenor is not seeking to recreate the wheel. What she IS looking to do is tell a darn good story that keeps you up past bedtime and engages you with fully dimensional characters who you truly care about (Jill S).

Some also expressed the hope that Scrivenor will continue to follow Detective Michaels in later books.

I do hope that while this tale is told, the detective with a few worries of her own will reappear in a subsequent book and allow us to follow her path into the future as well (Shelley S). Without revealing any plot twists I will say that I am looking forward to the next book by the author. Hopefully she is going to continue the story of Detective Inspector Sarah Michaels. It would be a very readable series (Jennifer B).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2022, and has been updated for the June 2023 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Read-Alikes

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