My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle. We were twelve years old when she went missing.
On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.
Ronnie's going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can't be gone, Ronnie won't believe it.
Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.
Lewis can believe it too. But he can't reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.
Five days later, Esther's buried body is discovered.
What do we owe the girl who isn't there?
Character-rich and propulsive, with a breathtakingly original use of voice and revolving points of view, Hayley Scrivenor delves under the surface, where no one can hide. With emotional depth and sensitivity, this stunning debut shows us how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.
Esther will always be a Dirt Town child, as we are its children, still.
“'A heart-wrenching mystery . . . A stellar debut.' Jane Harper
'You will not be able to put it down.' Hannah Kent
'Masterful. Australian crime has a new star.' Chris Hammer”
Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is a complex and multi-layered whodunnit, peppered with red-herrings and shocking revelations. In the rural New South Wales town of Durton, a young girl, Esther, is missing-initially presumed a runaway, then believed kidnapped. Her story, the town's story and the lead detective's story alternate throughout the novel, weaving the rich history of an unfulfilled community, full of lives and potential cut tragically short. Skilfully using the collective voices of the town's children-in chapters marked 'We'-as almost a Greek chorus observing the main narrative, the author layers the story with facts about Durton's history, glimpses into what happened on the fateful day of Esther's disappearance and the eventual fallout of long-buried secrets. Scrivenor cleverly knits the voices of several characters together to bring us this story of small-town life and isolation, childhood, motherhood, trauma and grief. Everyone is a suspect in Esther's disappearance, and no one can escape the long-reaching ramifications of past and present actions. Dirt Town is an absolute must for lovers of Australian crime. With her first novel Scrivenor joins the likes of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer by delving into the nuances of rural Australian life-the landscape, the politics and the relationships-and is no doubt one of the genre's most exciting new talents. Dirt Town is a powerhouse of an Australian crime debut. Kate Frawley is a bookseller and the manager of the Sun Bookshop. Read her interview with Hayley Scrivenor about Dirt Town here.
Hayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales. Dirt Town is her first novel. An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.
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