Reviewing Jane Harper’s The Dry

Federal Agent Aaron Falk is called back to his hometown of Kiewarra in rural Australia to attend the funeral of his best friend who committed suicide after murdering his wife and 6-year-old son. Falk is in shock – the friend he knew wouldn’t have done this. But how well did he know Luke? Yes, they were best friends when younger but that was a long time ago and people change.

But heading back to Kiewarra is so much more than saying goodbye to an old friend. Falk and his father were actually run out of town almost two decades before after the death of Ellie Dean. Ellie (along with Gretchen whom we meet later in The Dry) made up the rest of the Awesome Foursome along with Falk and Luke. When she was found dead in the river with stones and rocks in her pockets and boots, Falk and his father were blamed. Ellie’s death had never been explained and Falk was never sure it was suicide. Once back in Kiewarra, Falk starts to get niggling doubts about Luke too. It doesn’t quite make sense…

The Dry by Jane Harper is a tightly plotted, extremely suspenseful novel about what happens when tragedy hits a small, poverty stricken town. A town where water is scarce and bush fires threaten. Harper descriptions of the heat and weather and harsh landscape was beautiful: at times I was sure I could smell that dust and taste the poverty. In the midst of all this she wrote such a tightly plotted novel that my heart actually sang. The two crimes – the death of Ellie Dean and the death of Luke Hadler and his family – were woven together expertly.

There were flashbacks to show us what happened to Ellie – and in those scenes we learnt a lot about Luke as a teenager – and flashbacks to what happened to Luke. In most crime thrillers we only ever meet the dead bodies through the eyes of other characters and so most of what we are told is biased and inaccurate. In The Dry Harper’s use of flashbacks gave me a chance to actually get to know Luke and his family, and Ellie as characters in their own right.

Also, as someone who usually hates flashbacks, these were well written and placed perfectly within the narrative.

I usually read books during my commute and not when I am at home. With The Dry I found myself reading after dinner and long into the night just to finish it before the next day. I found myself so absorbed in Falk, Luke, Ellie, and Gretchen’s stories. I wanted to know what happened so, so badly! And the pay-off the explanation to it all is excellent. Unlike so many books, it lives up to the careful and nuanced build-up. The Dry is harrowing, gripping, and complicated. I loved it.

The Dry by Jane Harper is published by Little, Brown UK and will be available from all good and evil bookshops on the 12th of January 2017.

I was given a free copy via twitter and this has not influenced my opinions or thoughts.

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