About The Book
A small town hides big secrets in The Dry, an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.
After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.
Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.
Earlier this year I was browsing my local Waterstones trying to resist buying everything in sight and got chatting to one of the assistants. She told me about an amazing book she had read called The Dry, she was incredibly enthusiastic about it, was working on getting some copies in stock and told me it was a book I HAD to read. Like the fool I am I didn’t get round to buying it until this autumn. When I did start reading it I kicked myself because by the time I’d finished reading the first page I knew that The Dry was a book I was going to love.
This is an incredibly written and accomplished debut novel. It begins with a prologue depicting the death of the Hadler family, a scene which is eerie and atmospheric and in some ways strangely beautiful. In fact the writing in The Dry is beautiful full stop. Set in a remote Australian town, Kiewarra, suffering from drought this book depicts a town torn apart by the murder of wife and son of Luke Hadler and his subsequent suicide. Gossip is rife in the small town, they have decided that Luke is a murderer and he was guilty of killing his family. His childhood best friend, Aaron Falk’s return for his funeral fans the flames – he is an outcast who was run out of town many years earlier when his girlfriend was found dead.
Aaron is a well drawn character who I really fell in love with – he cannot fathom why his friend would have committed such an atrocity and despite mounting opposition is determined to find out what really happened. His investigation returns him to the town he left many years before and pits him again familiar adversaries. He has a loyalty to Luke and to the Hadler family and this propels him to stay in Kiewarra. This is a slow, meandering book where things are developed slowly and the pacing is spot on – it never drags and no words are ever used superfluously. I didn’t spend the whole time trying to work out what had happened as I was happy to let the book unfold for me – a mark of a wonderful novel.
The Dry is billed as crime fiction, and it is I suppose; there is death and a whodunnit, but it is so much more than that. This is a book about communities, about relationships, secrets, lies and mob mentality. Aaron’s presence in Kiewarra unsettles the locals – they have long memories and he quickly becomes persona non grata finding himself unwelcome in local shops and shunned by old friends. Jane Harper does a wonderful job of building the tension; the landscape is brutal, the sun is beating down, there are whispers and undercurrents of violence – it is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off and Aaron is the flint.
I am so pleased I finally bought this book, I read it over a couple of days, completely unable to put it down. It was lyrical, beautiful, stark and compelling and I will be looking out for whatever Jane Harper writes in the future. The Dry can be bought here – don’t be an idiot like me and put off buying it!