Goodreads: The Dry
Genre: Crime, Mystery/Thriller
In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain. Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.
Let me start of by saying WOW I absolutely loved this book. There’s something about reading a story based in a country I used to live in for six incredible years that has struck a very nostalgic chord in me. I’m surrounded by a lot of Australians here in Bali, so it’s not like I’ve missed the accent or the people or anything like that. Granted, I was also as city as you could get living and studying in Melbourne, but reading about the outback and the environment really brought out a familiar sense of longing for a home that I’ve missed. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years! …And with that little bout of nostalgia out of the way, let’s get to the review! 😬
With this book, Jane Harper has written such a spectacular story that drew me in completely from the start with her riveting and hypnotic prose. It’s definitely a slow burn murder mystery, so if you’re expecting a fast paced thriller, this isn’t for you; but the journey was so worth it! What impressed me the most were her descriptions of the punishing temperatures of the Australian outback. The pervasive drought that struck Kiewarra, the small Australian farming town where the story is set, and the surrounding area has sucked all the moisture out of the ground and most of the life out of its citizens. There’s a sluggishness and desperation in the people that’s been created as a result of their environment, and never has a spotless blue sky been so agonizing and terrifying. There’s no escape from the dry heat that seeks you out through every small crack and crevice. Harper has created an almost tangible atmosphere with her vivid descriptions, which serve to add to the sense of wrongness that surrounds the town, and it is woven so brilliantly through all parts of the story.
“To look out and see not another soul between you and the horizon could be a strange and disturbing sight.”
The characters were complex with interesting backstories. There were those with the typical small town mentality, the usual assholes and douchebags, and the few good guys that made the town more bearable, which contributed to understanding what living in such a small ‘town’ would feel like; where everyone knows each other and incidents from twenty years ago are still deeply etched in memories. I found myself really invested in Aaron Falk’s character. His backstory and past connection to the town was so compelling, and it created such a well of sympathy in me for him. I just really wanted to reach out and give him a hug most of the time (lol). Also, unpopular opinion time but I also found myself liking Luke’s character. There were times I’d find reading about his attitude disturbing, but there was a magnetism and charm in the way that Harper wrote him that made his character so appealing. Both sides of Luke’s person was painted so vividly, that it was easy to understand how quickly people could demonize him, but also be so enthralled by his attention. I loved how Harper’s characters really came to life for me, and made me feel connected to them.
“He stood on shaky legs, his vision blurred, as all around the cockatoos whirled and screamed into the scorching red sky. Alone, in that monstrous wound, Falk put his face in his hands and, just once, screamed himself.”
The big reveal was something that I honestly didn’t see coming. Maybe I’m just really bad at figuring out the whodunnits in thrillers? But I think with about 80% of the thrillers I read, it’s usually pretty predictable. Even though at one point I pretty much suspected everyone Falk came into contact with, the culprit took me so much by surprised that it was refreshing to be fully thrown by it! Even if you might’ve figured out the who, I’m not sure you would’ve figured out the why. It literally had me exclaiming in shock while reading on my lunch break—you can bet my colleagues found my reactions amusing. The pace in the last 30% of the book really sped up and rapidly fed detail after detail of the reveal that had me racing through to get to the finish. In the end, the conclusion to the story was pretty satisfying and gave me a sense of peace knowing the truth of what happened, and that it would be brought to light so that after 20 years, justice could finally be served.
If it isn’t clear by now, I was completely taken with this book. The characters, the setting, and the story all made this a consuming, thrilling and unputdownable read. Harper was able to create one of the most atmospheric works I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and it’s really hard to believe this was her debut novel. It makes me so excited to find out what else she has in store for us with Force of Nature and The Lost Man (which I’m currently reading and equally loving!). I have no doubt that this will be one of my top reads this year and if all her books get the same reaction from me, it’s safe to say Jane Harper has made it onto my auto buy authors list!
Have you read The Dry or is it on your TBR? I’d love to know your thoughts!