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Book review - The Dry

9781743548059

The Dry is the cracking debut novel by Melbourne Journalist Jane Harper. Already sold to a swag of countries and subject of much initial acclaim throughout Australia, this yarn is one that captures the reader right from the get-go. It’s a story of tragedy, secrets and country.

Set in the fictional Victorian town of Kiewarra, The Dry sets the scene of a drought ravaged community that could be anywhere in rural Australia. It’s a town suffering in more ways than one. When born and bred local farmer Luke Hadler supposedly kills his wife and one child – and then himself – well, no one’s really surprised. The drought, heat, isolation and financial troubles, mixed with a bit of mental illness, can do that to a man in the bush. It’s a story that’s unfortunately not unfamiliar in real life.

When Luke’s old childhood friend (now Federal cop Aaron Falk) returns home for the funeral, he’s asked by Hadler’s parents to do a bit of digging around. They seem to be the only one’s who doubt the accepted murder-suicide theory. The cops have closed the case as cut and dried. But this wouldn’t be a great novel if there weren’t a few twists, red herrings and secrets. And The Dry is full of them.

Falk teams up with new local walloper Sergeant Greg Raco, who’s already suspicious that it wasn’t a murder-suicide and the pair go about gathering the evidence they need. But it’s a hard slog, especially when Falk is dealing with his own local skeletons. Run out of town when he was a teenager for involvement in the suicide of one of his female friends, he’s despised by those that remember and they all reappear to let him know it. Initially wanting to spend only a day or two and get the hell out of there back to Melbourne, Falk is drawn deeper into the case as the real truth starts to unravel. Not only the truth about his dead friend Luke Hadler, but what happened to his girlfriend all those years ago.

The Dry takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of struggle and hope. It paints a fantastic and realistic picture of life on the land and the goings-on in a small country town. The bush characters, good and bad, play a big part in the story and the setting is a character itself. It’s a well-written yarn and a real page-turner. Ending somewhat abruptly with some unanswered questions is the only minor fault in an otherwise fantastic debut novel. Readers will no doubt be hanging out for the next instalment from Jane Harper.

The Dry is easy to read and entertaining all the way. It’s great to see Australian authors, writing Australian stories, making their mark in the crime/thriller genre.

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