Dirt Creek
by Scrivenor, Hayley

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels investigates the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl from a small town in rural Australia, who was last seen with a strange man by a schoolfriend who refuses to speak to the police. 150,000 first printing.

Originally from a small country town in rural Australia, Hayley Scrivenor is a writer, teacher and former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Dirt Creek 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 An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Hayley lives and writes on Dharawal country, on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia.

*Starred Review* The kids from Durton in rural Australia have their own name for it: Dirt Town. Everything is always dirty, especially the creek. Ronnie tells us, "My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle." Esther goes missing one devilishly hot afternoon after parting company from Ronnie on the parched road home from school. Everyone is looking for Esther, and when she is found dead, everyone is looking at one another through a veil of suspicion. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels has her work cut out for her, sifting through the facts and the many deceptions surrounding the crime. Scrivenor weaves a gut-wrenching tale told across a narrative that moves backward and forward in time and offers the reader a highly complex cast of characters, many of them difficult to like. Esther's death radically affects her schoolmates and their families, and the startling solution to the crime tears them apart literally and physically. The main part of the story seems to span ages, yet it takes place within a few weeks. The final reflections are timeless. The book brims over with head-spinning and mind-bending surprises. It will draw the inevitable comparisons to Jane Harper's The Dry (2017), but it proceeds boldly under its own unique power. A brilliantly crafted debut. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

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