The Australian Outback is a punishing environment even for those who know it well and respect it. So how did Cameron Bright come to be where his body was found – at the legendary stockman’s grave – without any provisions or even a vehicle to get him safely back home? This is the major question that is posed by this standalone novel by Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature. And this is the question that Nathan, the oldest of the three Bright brothers, tries to find the answer to.
Harper’s ability to create such tangible atmosphere in her novels is critical to how the reader reacts to the whole story. Here we suffer the heat and dryness of the Outback to the point of thirst; feel the grit of the sand between our teeth; and feel the sweat as it soaks into our clothes. We can only imagine, in horror, what Cameron felt while slowing dying in the heat and relentless sun.
In The Roar of the Crowd by Janice MacDonald, one or her characters says: “literature teaches us that subtext and back story is where everything really happens”. This couldn’t be more true than it is in this novel. Despite being estranged from his family for ten years, Nathan is determined to solve the tragic mystery surrounding his brother, Cameron. But there are so many secrets and so much pain to get through…
Make sure you add this book to your list of “must reads” along with Harper’s first two, if you haven’t read them already.
Think “Rear Window” (Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 mystery thriller movie), and you’ve got the premise of this novel. However, there’s more to this story than the one that Hitchcock told.
Anna Fox is a child psychologist who has become a recluse in her own home. She’s plagued by agoraphobia and can only cope through drink and watching old movies. That is until she sees something through her window that makes her question her own reality. Of course she’s not believed – not by the police, not by her doctor, and not by anyone else. In fact, she herself gradually begins to think that whatever she “saw” actually wasn’t real and in trying to dismiss it has no idea of how much danger she is in. This is a gripping, intense novel, where reality and imagination are tipped on their respective heads.
Aaron Falk, a Federal Police investigator, returns to the farming community of Kiewarra in Australia, twenty years after he and his father left under a cloud of suspicion. He has come back to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, who along with his wife and child have been found brutally slain. The community believes that the drought that has ravaged the countryside is the culprit in these deaths – that it drove Luke to kill his family and then to kill himself. Luke’s parents think differently and implore Aaron to investigate further.
Aaron knows that in doing so, the secrets that he’s lived with for twenty years will surface, and that they will re-awaken the animosity of the folk who were his neighbours back then. As he probes into the lives of Luke, his family, and the townsfolk of Kiewarra, far more secrets are unearthed along with the terrible lies that have destroyed so many people.
An atmospheric, intense and moving story, The Dry is sure to stay with the reader for a long while.