The illusory Port Silver is a rapidly gentrifying small town with enviable beaches, a swamp that could be a lagoon and a marina if the developers have their way. Buttressed by cane fields and farmlets, and an escarpment that does for Port Silver what The Wall did for Game of Thrones, Port Silver has inevitably changed since Martin left some 20 years earlier, but not that much.
Martin considers this transformation to be more like a set of cosmetic procedures.
Port Silver is effectively being ‘‘nipped and tucked’’, ‘‘its patchy exterior exfoliated, tarted up for the tourists and retirees, the sea changers and the telecommuters’’ attracted by the ocean views and the outdoor cafes with their chalkboard menus and umbrellas advertising Italian coffee brands. It’s an all too familiar transformation, neatly captured. Hammer has a good eye for the detail.
But it’s something of a coincidence that Martin’s partner in life and in love, the improbably named Mandalay Blonde (who has now died her hair brown in a contrary move), has decided to settle in Port Silver because she has recently inherited a property there. It’s also something of a coincidence that Martin’s former best friend, Jasper Speight, is lying dead in the hallway of Mandy’s rented town house when Martin arrives full of optimism to begin their new life together.
With the blood-stained Mandy clearly in shock, and the immediate suspect in Speight’s death, Martin is once again required to call on all his investigative skills as a journalist to try to establish her innocence, and his own. There’s something reptilian, Martin thinks, about the predatory police sergeant who interviews him about the murder. Martin’s far from sure he is in the clear.
Martin is, however, a thoroughly likeable chap, and he’s good company on an odyssey that will encompass a representative sample of Port Silver’s diverse population. This includes a pair of attractive backpackers on the make, a genial swami on the beach with a reputation for staging orgies, and the thoroughly unpleasant local real estate magnate with the magical moniker, Tyson St Clair – prompting the inevitable question where on earth does Hammer find these names?
And then there’s Uncle Vern, Martin’s only surviving relative, whose loyalty and capacity for forgiveness will come as something of a revelation as Martin comes to understand more about the tragedy that put an end to his childhood game of cricket, and his family.
There’s a lot going on in Port Silver, but it’s well worth a visit. Hammer has given us another big satisfying book for a long immersive read.