Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Dry

The Dry by Jane Harper
Flatiron Books: 1/10/17
eBook review copy; 336 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781250105608

The Dry by Jane Harper is a very highly recommended tense, atmospheric mystery. An incredible debut novel set in Kiewarra, a small Australian town, during a devastating drought.

Melbourne-based Federal Agent Aaron Falk saw the headlines. Luke Hadler, his best childhood friend, was found dead, as were his wife, Karen, and their son, Billy. It appears that Luke killed his wife and son, leaving his baby daughter alive and crying in her crib. Then he drove off and found a place to kill himself. Falk, who left Kiewarra twenty years ago is summoned to attend the funeral by Gerry Hadler, Luke's father. After calling him about the arrangements, Gerry sent Falk a note saying: "Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral."

Twenty years ago Aaron Falk and his father left Kiewarra under a cloud of suspicion that Aaron had something to do with the death of his friend Ellie Deacon. When he was under the scrutiny of the police at the time, he and Luke gave each other bogus alibis for the afternoon, which saved him from any charges being filed. Now as Falk is back, the residents in the small town remember why he left before and many of them are determined to make sure he knows he is not welcome in the town.

In the meantime, even though Falk was planning to go back to Melbourne as soon as possible, he is asked by Gerry to help Sergeant Greg Raco to look into the case. As he and Raco begin to work together, it is clear that despite what seems obvious at first, this may not be a murder/suicide. As the two investigate, the bad blood between Malcolm Deacon, father of Ellie, and his nephew Grant Dow boils to the surface. But there are plenty of hidden secrets and suspicions in the small town.

The Dry is simply an excellent novel that meets all my criteria for a perfect mystery. The quality of Harper's writing is brilliant.  It is an engaging,
extremely well-written, and finely paced novel. 

The setting is perfectly described and sets the tone and atmosphere. It's a small, mean town beaten down by drought and poverty and alcoholism. Many citizens in the town are cliquish, petty, and hold grudges, as well as secrets, from decades past. 

The main characters are well-developed. There are plenty of suspects at the start and even more surface as the investigation continues. Harper keeps the tension increasing at a steady pace as she divulges the backstory alongside the current investigation. 

Falk is an enigma, but appealing main character. He is closed off emotionally, but you know he is intelligent. When he agrees to stay for a short time and assist in the investigation, it is clear how much he would rather go back to Melbourne and shake the dust of Kiewarra off his shoes forever, but he understands his obligation to help Gerry and Barb Hadler find closure.
There are suspects-a-plenty, but Harper surprised me at the end.

No question about it: if you like mysteries read T
he Dry.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of Flatiron Books

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