The Dry by Jane Harper
Flatiron Books: 1/10/17
eBook review copy; 336 pages
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
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 The Dry.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy
of Flatiron Books.