Monday, February 20, 2017
Book Review: "The Dry" by Jane Harper
This book had everythinggreat writing, a terrifically evocative setting (I felt hot every time I read it, and it wasn't just because I'm running a fever, and I kept expecting everyone I came into contact with to speak with an Australian accent), interesting character development, and lots of twists and turns. It's amazing to think that this is Harper's debut novel, because it felt like a book written by a virtuoso.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra, the small, rural Australian town where he grew up, when he hears that his childhood best friend, Luke, is dead, along with Luke's wife and young son. Actually his return for Luke's funeral isn't by choice: he's summoned by Luke's father, who threatens to bring to light an old secret that Luke and Aaron shared if he doesn't come home. Years ago, their friend Ellie Deacon drowned, but it turned out she was murdered. Luke and Aaron were each other's alibi that night, although neither really asked where the other one was. Many in the town suspected they lied.
"They'd all been so tight. Teenage tight, where you believe your friends are soul mates and the bonds will last forever."
Kiewarra has been ravaged by endless drought and the townspeople are on edge, coupled with the tragic circumstances around the deaths of Luke and his family. Given that Aaron and his father fled the town years ago, after both were accused of being involved in Ellie's death, many people in town, including Ellie's ne'er-do-well father and violent cousin, still aren't happy to see him.
As much as he wants to get out of Kiewarra as quickly as he arrived, Aaron promises Luke's parents that he will look into what really happened the day Luke and his family died. Partnering with a local police officer, Aaron tries to make sense of who could have been involved, and they both quickly find more than their share of secrets and lies, and Aaron must come face-to-face with an unending supply of childhood memories, some good, some bad. But the more they dig into the crime, the more they uncover, and the more hostile the townspeople become.
Is this crime related to the lie that Luke and Aaron told all those years ago, or was something else afoot? Are those still trying to cause people to suspect Aaron's involvement in Ellie's death actually involved in Luke's? Did the drought so destroy this town and any sense of hope that someone felt compelled to murder, or did Luke just snap under pressure one day, like so many believe? These are questions Aaron and his police partner need to find answers to, but will danger find them first?
The truth is, a lot of times I'm hesitant to read crime or mystery novels where you actually have to figure out who the perpetrator is, mainly because I feel this way:
All told, this is a tremendously suspenseful, exceptionally well-written book that really blew me away. Lately I've been reading crime novels that have been more novel than crime, which hasn't been a bad thing, but The Dry was really a crime novel. If this is Harper's debut, I can't wait to see what comes next, because she hit a homer with this one!!