The Dry by Jane Harper (first published in 2017 by Little, Brown)
About the book:
Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…
When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loathe to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.
And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret. A secret Falk thought long-buried. A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface.
I was in the mood for a good mystery, and The Dry delivered just that. Isn’t it great when you encounter the right book at the right time?
If it wasn’t for that pesky thing called employment, I would have finished this novel in one sitting. As it was, the moment I got home I was huddled on my bed, picking up where I left off.
It’s an incredibly atmospheric novel – the lethargy and the heat just ooze off the page.
And while you could categorise the book as a slow mystery – i.e. it’s not a buzzing police procedural with bodies and blood appearing left, right and centre, each chapter contributes a little more to the investigation and leaves you hankering for more.
And it’s not too slow that you’re stuck with paragraphs of boozy introspection by the protagonist. In short, the author gets it just right.
I usually can’t resist spoiling myself and seeing whodunit, but somehow managed to restrain myself this time. There’s a classic element of misdirection, and I didn’t suspect the culprit – which is always great in a murder mystery.
The characters are quite memorable, and the fear and hatred permeating the small town are palpable. It’s a stifling atmosphere, where everyone knows everyone else’s business and town gossip reigns supreme.
I particularly enjoyed the alliance between our protagonist Falk and the town police officer – in so many crime novels there’s a sort of alpha-male one-upmanship, but these two work together exceedingly well, united by their status as ‘outsiders’.
It did feel like things happened a little too quickly at the end, and there are a couple of things left open-ended, but despite these complaints, it was a well-written, well-crafted book with an engaging writing style, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.