2022 Reviews · crime · mystery · new release · suspense · thriller

New Release Book Review: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Title: Dirt Town

Author: Hayley Scrivenor

Published: May 31st 2022

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 368

Genres:  Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle. We were twelve years old when she went missing.

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.

Five days later, Esther’s buried body is discovered.

What do we owe the girl who isn’t there?

Character-rich and propulsive, with a breathtakingly original use of voice and revolving points of view, Dirt Town delves under the surface, where no one can hide. With emotional depth and sensitivity, this stunning debut shows us how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.

Esther will always be a Dirt Town child, as we are its children, still.


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

Introduced by major Australian publisher Pan Macmillan as the most outstanding debut of 2022, Dirt Town is the first book from Hayley Scrivenor. Dirt Town won the Unpublished Manuscript Award from Kill Your Darlings and this accolade comes as no surprise to me. Dirt Town is a solid debut composition.

Situated in a sweltering small Australian town named Durton, Dirt Town looks closely at a town at crisis point when a young twelve-year-old girl named Esther Bianchi goes missing. Following this tenuous case from the first moments that Esther goes missing, Dirt Town exposes a town that becomes unstuck by this heart wrenching crime. When Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is called in to man this case, she brings a wealth of experience in dealing with the worst of humanity. Durton is a town populated with people who have secrets and when Esther’s body is finally recovered after a five-day period, this town will be forever changed.

I’ve heard plenty of positive buzz about Dirt Town. My first encounter with Scrivenor’s debut began back in late January this year when I glimpsed an early proof copy of Dirt Town via a bookseller friend. As soon as Dirt Town cropped up on my request list, I made a strong effort to secure a copy of this book. I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to read this flooring debut, I wasn’t disappointed!

Dirt Town is a strong situational read. The sense of place is incredibly vivid and well portrayed by Scrivenor’s deft hand. I felt a part of the Durton community fold from the beginning to the end of Dirt Town. As the narrative unfolds, the reader is able to directly witness this community both crumble and connect during a time of strain following young Esther’s disappearance. Scrivenor teases out the community relations part of her novel extremely well. Opening up a raw and honest examination of humanity under stress and closing with a township rattled by the events that occurred in their backyard, Dirt Town is a microscopic read.  The central mystery was perplexing, but it also felt much like a slow burn crime mystery novel. With conceivable characters, fantastic detective work practices and a set of realistic interactions to match, Dirt Town was a solid read. I could also see this one as a film, it definitely has a cinematic quality to it. I hope to see Scrivenor’s winning debut up in lights at some point in the future!

I’m sure there are many great things to come for the author of Dirt Town, this was an excellent debut.

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was published on 31st May 2022 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Dirt Town, Hayley Scrivenor, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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