Cover Image: Dirt Creek

Dirt Creek

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Member Reviews

Dirt Creek is a book which kept me thoroughly engaged from beginning to end.  Hayley Scrivenor paints an exquisite picture of a small, dusty town so realistic that I felt I was there.  The characters seem real and the story is plausible and well crafted.
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A young girl has gone missing from a small Australian town and we watch the crime investigation through childrens and police voices.

A creative way to tell a story, but for me this was just so slow. I’m not sure why. I felt it was well done as far as the writing goes but it was confusing at times and had a drag for me that I couldn’t snap out of. That said it kept me guessing until the end!

Thank you to Flatiron and NetGalley for the advance ebook.
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I expected Dirt Creek to be a slightly better than average detective novel that is set in Australia.  But my expectations were much too low.  While the story of the disappearance and subsequent death of 12-year-old Esther Bianchi makes a good story, Hayley Scrivernor elevates it well above the mundane through her characters.  Each one is presented in a way that helps us understand their motivations and, at the same time, advances the story.  Of particular note is police Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels, a character apparently drawn from Scrivener's many conversations with a female police officer, a woman overly devoted to her job.  Another character - the town  - is equally important and equally finely drawn.  Just as Kristin Hannah evokes the dirt and grit of the Dust Bowl in The Four Winds, so Scrivener evokes the dirt and the character of this small dying town.  The reader is transported there and made to understand its physical characteristics and its social structures.  Towards the end of the novel we are told that "none of us can escape who we are when others aren't looking; we can't guess what we're capable of until it's too late."  And that is the mystery with which we all live.  Kudos to Ms. Scrivernor.  I hope she continues to write at this same high level.  Thanks to NetGalley and FlatIron Books for the advanced reader's copy.
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Esther Bianchi goes missing one Friday afternoon and Dirt Creek tells the story of the subsequent days after from a smattering of characters including her two 12yo best friends, her mother, and the detective working the case. 
This book was so gripping and well written, and I loved each of the character’s voices and perspectives. It was interesting how much things overlapped and intersected but it worked because this novel takes place in a very small rural town. For people looking for a smart, gritty mystery, this one is great. 
Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC!
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Dirt Creek is one of the best detective stories I've read in a long time. It is very well done. I cared about the characters and the outcome of the mystery, the setting was incredible, and it surprised me in unexpected ways.
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I requested Dirt Creek as background reading for a First Impressions Program booked by marketing, Erin Kibby. It proved to be a great success with our member-reviewers getting a stellar 4.6-star average; so, in addition to featuring it as part of First Impressions, we will also be running an editorial "Today's Top Picks" feature for a week across BookBrowse.
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This is the kind of book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. When 12-year-old Esther goes missing in a small, dusty Australian town, it upends many lives and reveals some of the town's long-buried secrets. Your heart will break for Esther's young friends Veronica and Lewis. All of the characters were well-developed and Scrivenor's writing places you in the heart of hot, dusty Durton. This is an excellent debut and I would love to see another book featuring Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels. If you like Jane Harper's books, you will definitely like this novel.
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Mysteries of any kind aren’t usually what I gravitate towards in my very moody reading habits, but a few things in the blurb stood out to me so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been drawn to Australian narratives recently, past and present, and while some reviews mentioned that they didn’t feel a sense of place in this story, I have to disagree. To me it felt both familiar and foreign, small town where everybody knows your name + Aussie quirks (from an American point of view here ✔️). While the action lost me here and there, this story really succeeded in its heart and had some beautiful, heart-breaking emotional pops that made the book for me. The voices of the children were well done and the Greek chorus super eerie, and the adult were all just so sad (so real). 

3.5 rounded down for some lulls in the story that had me borderline losing interest, and the missing child element was really difficult - I don’t think I can read another story like this for a long while. 

Thanks to NetGalley and FlatIron for a digital ARC of this book!
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Going into this story, I was expecting a standard murder mystery: young girl disappears and people need to find the killer. While this was the main plot of the story, I feel as though this was much more literary than I was expecting. Every so often there was a chapter from a metaphorical “we” being the children/people of the town, which confused me at first until I realized that it wasn’t actually a real person. Additionally, there were more than 3 points of view, some children, some adults, so it was hard to keep track of who knew about what, and when they knew it. Overall this lead to more flowery prose and less black and white writing than normally appears in thrillers - and more than I was expecting. 

Furthermore, the characters in the story were all not-great people, and there was not a single person I was rooting for. Combined with a lackluster plot, when the solution to the mystery had been revealed I just kinda shrugged, not caring in any way what happened. Overall, I was just really bored reading it, and if I was not committed to finishing it (because I had an ARC of it) I would have DNF’d it. Dirt Creek did not pack a punch, make an impact, or surprise me in any way - which makes it a fail as a mystery/thriller in my book. As a piece of literary fiction (which admittedly is not my favorite) it is just average, hence the three stars.
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Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor  is a recommended debut mystery and procedural set in Australia.

In the opening we know her body has been found, as witnessed by the children who knew her. Following this is the investigation that begins when twelve-year-old Esther disappears on the way home from school. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels arrives in town to investigate Esther's disappearance and the whole community is thrown into the investigation. Esther's best friend, Ronnie, is determined to find Esther and bring her home.

Chapters are told through different points-of-view, including chapters titled "we" which represents a sort of Greek chorus composed of the children of the community watching and observing the death and investigation of Esther. It becomes clear as the investigation unfolds that everyone isn't telling the truth and that people have secrets they want to keep hidden, no matter the costs to the whole town. The children are honest with their insights, but also with their reasons to keep silent.

The action and tension in Dirt Creek builds very slowly and gradually as suspects are set apart and more information is gradually revealed by the children and the community. Media attention and the police investigation make those who could reveal more information even more reticent to do so. The personal lives of the families and their children is part of the narrative, and is also heartbreaking at times. Ronnie's chapters are the most moving because Esther was her best friend and it is clear that she misses her friend.

This is a character driven mystery. The children are sympathetic characters although also repetitious, while the adults are less sympathetic and more disagreeable. Several of the adult friendships are an important part of the narrative, but their friendships are also brought into question. The town itself is a desolate and destructive force among the residents.

The quality of the writing is quite good, but the actual slow progress of the plot inhibits the insights from making a big impact in the overall presentation of the narrative. It should be noted that there is a lot of violence in the plot that is off-putting and not necessary. The plot needs tightening up and a clarification of the direction the narrative is taking. Additionally, it is never necessary to add everything you have big feelings about to one novel. 
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Macmillan via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Edelweiss, Google Books, and Amazon.
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this one was not for me … but I appreciated it greatly!

there was a lot that I wanted to love about this one: the missing (kidnapped probably murdered) person, the small town suspicions, the sketchy family, I could go on and on

however, the writing of the plot was not it for me. the dialogue was few and far between, with the switching POVs telling their side of the story rather than in conversational writing. 

I would have loved it more if the mystery held more of an impact and allowed the reader to figure it out for themselves. instead, the story was unfolded bit by bit and spoon fed to the readers 😅

not to mention the kids who were friends with missing child esther had the WORST memories and literally could not understand that withholding information was life or death for their “friend” 

I WAS SO IRRITATED THE ENTIRE TIME 🥴

overall, it had great potential, but the writing wasn’t the correct style to fit the themes of the book, in my opinion. 

thank you to netgalley and flatiron books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! 

rating: 2 stars
wine pairing: brazil sauvignon blanc
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On a hot December afternoon, 12-year old Esther goes missing on her walk home from school in rural small-town Australia and the four days between her disappearance and reappearance tear the town apart. As the investigation unfolds, secrets new and old are revealed, changing the community and the lives of the people at the center of the case in profound ways. 

Told in alternating perspectives between the detective sergeant investigating the case, Esther's closest friends Ronnie and Lewis, Esther's mom Constance, and the collective "We" of the community's children, the story follows their experiences and perceptions in ways that provide glimpses of what may have actually happened without revealing the truth in its complete picture until the end. This approach is sometimes confusing because it jumps back and forth a bit in the timeline, but it also gives the reader a look into the minds of those closest to Esther and the case in a way that feels more authentic than many mystery-thrillers. There are several red herrings, but they're done in a way that never feels like the author is cheating the reader, and by the time the killer is revealed (it isn't a spoiler to tell you Esther is dead - her body is found in the opening chapter) the reader has enough information to piece it together right before the detective. Similar in tone to Jane Harper's work, Scrivenor's narrative approach offers something new for readers who enjoy small-town thrillers.

Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Dirt Creek early in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a great read--police procedural and mystery set in Australia! It reminded me a lot of The Survivors by Jane Harper and When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McClain. In the small Australian town, a young girl goes missing. Two detectives from Sydney take the case over, and we get to follow the lead detective, Sarah, as she investigates. Suddenly every one in town seems like a suspect, and everyone's secrets begin coming out. We follow several character's points of views, including Sarah, the missing girl's mother, the missing girl's friends and the collective we of the town. The author really brings the setting to life, and I could picture this tiny, dirt streaked town. What a debut! This is an author to watch!
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literary take on a murder mystery. really gets into the complex dynamics of any human interaction. langorous, thoughtful prose, with metaphors so fresh that they made me pause. genuinely lovely, and satisfying in that it's about as satisfying as real life is; this is, only partly
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This was an average mystery. It was fairly predictable. I knew who committed the crime down to two possibilities. It’s more of a small-town drama. I don’t like child death, but I knew that about the book going in so don’t fault it for my own decisions. I just didn’t particularly connect to it.
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Scrivenor delivers a uniquely told story of what happens in a rural Australian town after a young girl goes missing and results in secrets being revealed. Told from multiple viewpoints, a Greek chorus of the town’s children, the missing girl’s best friend, the Detective Sergeant investigating, the mother of the missing girl and a school boy friend, Scrivenor manages to balance the investigation, all the emotional aspects and complex characters very well. In the end, I prefer something much more crime/investigation based so this wasn’t quite a hit for me, but I am interested in future releases from this author. So if you love an in-depth look at how a crime affects all those who are touched by it then this book will be right up your alley.
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This book has a great opening that really hooks you in with questions you want answered.  Yet it took me a while to figure out the cast of characters and to get into the plot.  The story is told from alternating perspectives of some of the main characters with a mystery character entitled just “we” that gives you a look into the goings ons of the small Australian town. This small struggling town experiences the tragic disappearance of one of its children.  What happened to her and is anyone safe?  The young characters' voices are powerful as they struggle to come to terms with one of their own being in their lives one day and unexpectedly out of it the next. I would definitely recommend this book to those who want a book that explores the emotional impact of a tragic mystery in a small town.  I did find that the ending was a bit drawn out.  Another good Australian mystery!  Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book!
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For a debut author, this was a surprise. Hayley Scrivenor weaves the tale of a missing girl and how everyone is a small town in I. Extend to one another. Many compare her writing with The D try by Jane Harper, but I think her story is better constructed. This was a 4.5 for me!
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When a young school girl disappears on her way home from school, it rocks a small, rural, Australian town and exposes secrets of the children and the adults in the community. The feel of the story has more in common with Big Little Lies than with the thrillers of Jane Harper or Candice Fox.
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Dirt Creek is Durton, Australia, a small town in a dry area. Generations of families have lived here. Everyone has secrets, and some know these secrets or perhaps they are the ones who are hiding them or inventing them. Families for the most part support each other. But in the midst of this community everything changes when Esther, a 12-year-old goes missing. In the first chapter; a farmer makes a gruesome discovery in his pasture – who/what is it? The story unravels going back in time exploring relationships and events that reveal a mystery.

Scrivenor  has a unique way in telling this story. Much is seen through the eyes of the children who know Esther; Veronica (Ronnie), and Lewis. Other segments are told by the out-of-town detectives, Sarah and her partner. The author also reveals how the adults are coping. Best of all, there are intermittent chapters entitled “we” which serves as a type of Greek chorus gauging the effects of this crime and how it is affecting their once quiet community.

Vivid  descriptions of place and characters help a slow-moving plot build suspense in determining who may have been responsible. Consider this a great Outback noire! Highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this title.
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