‘Dirt Town’ by Hayley Scrivener | #20BooksofSummer

Author : Hayley Scrivenor
Title : Dirt Town
Pages : 370
Publisher : Pan MacMillan
Publication date : June 23, 2020


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.


“Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town.

What is it about small town mysteries that remains so endlessly fascinating?

Durton, or Dirt Town as the locals call it, is the kind of place you can’t wait to leave behind. It’s dirty and dusty. It’s isolated and claustrophobic. It’s one of those places where seemingly everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean they will interfere with any shenanigans. What happens behind closed doors and all of that …

One hot afternoon, Esther Bianchi doesn’t make it home from school. Dirt Town is in disbelief. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in their community. Detective Sergeant Michaels is called in to help in the search for Esther. She knows more than anyone how, in a split moment, someone could do something they never thought they’d do. Esther’s friend Ronnie desperately wants to find her BFF but might just end up putting herself in danger. And Lewis knows something that could possibly help but telling someone might force him to reveal a secret of his own. A secret he wants to hold on to with all his might.

The Dirt Town community might be small but there is a lot happening. The town residents may think they know everything, but a multitude of secrets lurk underneath the surface, many of which will be revealed when the search for what happened to Esther gets underway. None of it is very pretty.

Dirt Town‘ is a slow-burning and character-driven mystery with the most delightful atmosphere oozing from its pages. It reminded me a bit of Jane Harper’s novels or even Chris Whitaker. Few do that isolated and claustrophobic vibe so well but it seems we might now need to add Hayley Scrivenor to the list. The characters are realistic, multi-layered and complex. All dealing with a variety of issues, yet mostly just trying to survive in a town that offers so incredibly little. For many of the residents there’s such sorrow, sadness and misery and yet, ‘Dirt Town‘ is home. It is what it is.

Don’t let the scenario of the missing child put you off. I know we’ve all been there and done that and really, how many different ways can you tackle this topic. But Hayley Scrivenor goes about things so differently that ‘Dirt Town‘ becomes quite refreshing and original. There are various points-of-view, each offering a unique insight into what’s going on. Some picking up where others left off, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

If I’m going to be nit-picky, I did have one wee niggle regarding DS Michaels. Yes, she’s done a thing (can’t mention it, too spoiler-ish) but there is a time and a place for everything. Personally, it is quite off-putting to me when a Detective on a job is thinking about a former girlfriend in the middle of interviews. It really annoyed me.

However, as a whole, I very much enjoyed ‘Dirt Town‘. It’s an impressive debut. Hayley Scrivenor is definitely an author to watch and a fabulous addition to the Australian crime writer community.

Dirt Town is available to buy!

With thanks to the publisher for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

20 Books of Summer : 3/20

  3 comments for “‘Dirt Town’ by Hayley Scrivener | #20BooksofSummer

  1. June 30, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    I enjoyed reading your review. My NetGalley request is still pending but if it’s refused I’ll get the book anyway I think


  2. June 30, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Great review Eva. I also loved this. ❤📚


  3. July 2, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    Fab review! You’ve definitely made me curious now. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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