In Hammer’s second novel we are once again following Martin Scarsdale, in the wake of his time in the Riverina. He has written a book and is joining his partner from Riversend, Mandalay. As soon as the protagonist arrives in seaside town Port Silver where his partner and her son have been living, it doesn’t take long for hell to break loose. Upon Scarsdale’s arrival, he finds a man bleeding out in his kitchen, from a stab wound.
Later, we find out the victim was his longtime childhood friend Jasper Speight from Port Silver, Martin Scarsdale’s hometown. This is just the start of the investigative journey that the novel takes us on. The events that transpire also take us through the protagonists eventful and painful childhood.
For myself, as the reader, I enjoyed the descriptions of the town of Port Silver in both past and present as it reminded me of growing up in a small coastal area. The struggles and the people seemed very familiar. I also deplored that Scarsdale, as a partner was largely absent in a physical and emotional way, when his journalistic instinct kicked in. This is largely due to the emotional journey that Martin was navigating. I also loved the line ‘When Martin had his first sip of coffee, he almost started to believe in God’. As a fellow coffee lover, I completely understand! I empathised with many of the characters and their circumstances.
This second instalment from Hammer delves much further into what makes Martin Scarsdale tick and how he became the intrepid, nomadic journalist that we know so far. The pace is generally slower, much like the seaside town the novel is based in. However, there is enough intrigue to keep the reader invested. The characters in this book are very well developed and complex. The author highlights throughout the novel, how the famous quote by John Lennon ‘Life is what happens when you are busy making plans’ is an incredibly apt description of life and the plans we make. Scarsden and Mandalay are true examples of this throughout the book. Hammer’s second instalment is a great achievement with a complex plot, richly interwoven characters and realistic storylines.
Slower paced than the first novel but just as satisfying as Scrublands. 8/10