Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: THE DRY

THE DRY by Jane Harper (Flatiron Books, 2017)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret... A secret Falk thought long-buried... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface.

If there was an X-Factor for crime debutants, then Jane Harper would get a standing ovation and cries of ‘you’ve just got something special’ from ecstatic judges. And we’d all definitely want to see more.

Harper’s remarkable debut, set in the parched rural landscape of Australia, combines exquisite slow-build storytelling with a terrific sense of place and richly drawn characters that provoke a range of emotions in the reader.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his drought-stricken hometown Kiewarra for the funeral of a childhood friend. Luke Hadler seems to have broken under the strain, shooting his wife and son, then himself. It’s a shocking event, even in a community that faces life and death choices every day. Falk’s visit is meant to be fleeting – he has no desire to linger in a place he and his father fled twenty years before after accusations swirled following the suspicious drowning of a young woman.

But as Falk and a local detective begin to doubt the murder-suicide scenario, he stays, only to find that his digging into this latest tragedy unearths secrets from the past, from a time when Luke provided him with an alibi. With townsfolk who still harbour plenty of unpleasant beliefs, and a community struggling to survive in a tinder-dry landscape, Falk must tread a tightrope as he lights a match to seek the truth.

The Dry is a tale of a man versus the environment, a town, and his own past. Beautifully written, Harper teases us with trickles before we grab the bottle to gulp our way to an exciting finish.

Note: this review was first published in Mystery Scene. This weekend, THE DRY won yet another award, the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel. 

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features and reviews for a wide range of magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed almost 200 mystery writers, discussed crime writing onstage at festivals in Europe and Australasia, and on national radio and top podcasts. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can find him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

No comments:

Post a Comment