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Silver by Chris Hammer

Silver, the second novel by Chris Hammer, commences virtually where his first, Scrublands, finished. Journalist Martin Scarsden is enroute to Port Silver, the place he grew up and where, with his new partner, Mandalay Blonde and her baby boy (who have gone ahead) he hopes to start afresh. But fate has other plans. 

When an old friend is brutally murdered in the hallway of the flat Mandy was renting on the day Martin arrives in town, he understands that not only are the ghosts he thought he’d laid to rest when he left Silver all those year ago still waiting to haunt him, but fresh spectres are set to destroy the plans he hasn’t even set in motion.

In the initial stages of the murder investigation, Mandy is both key witness and suspect, so Martin determines to prove her innocence. While Mandy may have blood on her hands, all is not as it seems – not in Martin’s relationship, his past and the terrible secrets it holds, nor the town he’s avoided for so long. When another horrifying event causes a media scrum to descend upon the tiny town, Martin finds himself not only reporting the story as it unfolds, but becoming, as is his inadvertent way, very much a part of it. But will he be able to write the happy ending he so desires?

This was a much denser book than Scrublands. The plot is thicker and, as a consequence, the exploration of character is as well. This worked both for and against the novel and sometimes, the story seemed to tread water as it became burdened with telling – mainly character backgrounds, as interesting as some were – rather than showing. Still, the writing is clear, evocative even, and the way Hammer represents the media, the drive to break the news, even at the expense of those who find themselves thrust into the spotlight, the ruthless behaviours and strategies deployed, is excellent. I also like that Scarsden and Mandalay are deeply flawed humans. It makes them both frustrating and real. I enjoyed this and look forward to seeing where Hammer takes us and possibly Scarsden next. 

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