Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Opal Country by Chris Hammer

 
First Line: The night is perfect for ratting.
 
When big-city Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic arrives in Finnegans Gap to investigate the death of an opal miner, he feels as though he's landed on another planet-- a planet filled with wind, dirt, and blast furnace heat. His local partner in the investigation is Detective Constable Navelle Buchanan, and her insight into the area is invaluable. 
 
Nothing is straightforward, neither about the man's death nor the person who found him. In this desolate outback town, police struggle to maintain order. Opal mines are ransacked by thieves. Religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters, and the rich? Well, the rich always seem to do whatever they want.

Finnegans Gap has proved tough on the police. It's ended one police officer's career and damaged others, and now allegations have been made against both Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan. But the two are relentless, and there's one thing that the people of Finnegans Gap must learn: nothing stays buried forever.

~

Chris Hammer is an Australian author who's been on my radar for a couple of years, and since I love opals, Opal Country persuaded me that this is where I needed to jump in and test the waters.

Ivan Lucic is a fascinating, multi-faceted character. His introduction to the climate in Finnegans Gap made me smile, desert dweller that I am, and his driving skill on dirt roads made me laugh out loud. There's a subplot involving his partner, Detective Inspector Morris Montifiore, that he's got to be wary of since the workings of any police force's "internal affairs" are serious. Lucic is well-described as " a lone wolf forced to tend a flock," It can chafe him when he realizes that he has to keep Nell Buchanan in the loop, and that there are people in Finnegans Gap for whom he has a duty of care. He's also got a gambling problem that almost made me roll my eyes until Hammer worked his magic on it.

Nell Buchanan is another fascinating character. She's relatively new on the job and has faced her share of misogyny, but she's incredibly dedicated and intuitive. However, she can also be incredibly thoughtless. These two form a very interesting partnership.

As an American of a certain age, I have to admit being thrown each and every time one of the bad guys was mentioned by name. Why? Because the name is Bullwinkel, that's why. I kept hearing Boris and Natasha muttering away about "Moose and Squirrel" in my ear. Ah well. The name certainly didn't stop him from being a five-star slimeball. 

As Lucic and Buchanan fought their way to the truth and Opal Country concluded in a good old-fashioned shootout, I gained a hearty respect for the mayor of Deadmans Well. That's one very important thing I learned about Chris Hammer: never dismiss one of his characters. You never know what they're capable of (other than surprising you). 

Hammer's setting took me right into Australia's opal country and gave me a nice, twisty mystery to solve alongside some amazing characters. I'll be back for more.


Opal Country (APA Treasure and Dirt) by Chris Hammer
ISBN: 9781472272966
Wildfire © 2022
Hardcover, 512 pages
 
Police Procedural
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon UK.

18 comments:

  1. I checked this one out on NetGalley after your cover/title post and discovered I missed that opportunity. Now, maybe the library will have it--will have to remember to check both titles.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it, Jen.

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  2. Oh, this sounds great, Cathy! It sounds as though it has a really strong sense of setting, which always appeals to me. And the characters sound very well-drawn, too. And there is moose and squirrel! ;-)

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    1. Oh, great... now I have a Russian-accented earworm!

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  3. I like the setting and the background to this story. New author for me.

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    1. He's become very popular in Australia. I know I'll be reading more of his books.

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  4. I almost always enjoy books set in Australia and this one sounds especially intriguing. The series goes on the (long) TBR list.

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    1. Who knows, my TBR might be longer than yours, Dorothy!

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  5. Australia's Opal country...what a great setting! And the characters sound great, too. Thanks for turning me on to this book. I can't wait to check it out. :)

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  6. Sounds fascinating! I know nothing about opal mining, but they sure are beautiful stones. This sounds like a good way to learn a little about it. I also like the idea of paying close attention to the characters. I love when an author creates dynamic characters.

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  7. Gosh, I just brought home 10 library books. Library only has Hammer's first book Scrublands. So I either read the second book in the series whichis Silver or I switch to this one. Hard choices here. I'll have to flip a few coins to see what to read first.

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  8. I can't even figure out which book to read of the 10. I'm on Lee Goldberg's "Gated Prey," but it's like many police procedurals. And Bosch is more interesting as a character in that genre.

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    1. Bosch is one of the best in that genre. Bosch has been with us for thirty years now. Time flies...

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  9. I didn't meet Bosch until later in his series. But I have seeral of his later books, all of Mickey Haller's books (love the humor) and all Renee Ballard books.

    "Gated Prey" is actually OK, but what makes it is the humor in the dialogue which has me laughing.

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    1. I really appreciate authors who can do dialogue well.

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