The Dry by Jane Harper
Paperback Edition, 342 pages
Published 31st May 2016 by Macmillan Australia
Aaron Falk, a former resident of the isolated Australian town Kiewarra, returns for the funeral of old friend Luke Hadler, who blew his own head off after killing his wife and son. Or did he? Falk is roped in by Luke’s Mother and Father to conduct an unofficial investigation into Luke’s possible innocence. Running parallel to this story is the memory of a suicide of an old friend of Falk’s during his teenage years in Kiewarra. His return has stirred up a great deal of past contempt.
The synopsis brought to mind In Cold Blood; three members of the same family all found dead with gunshot wounds in their own home. Not identical scenarios but enough similarities to pique my interest. Falks investigation is brilliantly written by Harper. It’s intriguing, mysterious with enough twists, turns and dead ends to make this a decent page turner. A couple of chapters end with a ‘there’s something you need to know’ moment, which I love and don’t see enough of in books. Point Horror novels used the end-of-chapter-cliffhanger trick all the time. Authors should embrace it!
The story is set against a backdrop of a prolonged drought and whilst you are able to connect with the scorched earth landscape, I don’t feel there is enough desperation shown with the towns inhabitants. There’s little snippets of struggling farmers but I’d expect a helluva lot more depression from a two year drought but it doesn’t seem to really affect anyone. I live in the UK and we’ve just had a two month drought and everybody is going crazy so surely two years would send people insane. A book by Ruth Rendell called Babes in the Wood, written against the backdrop of torrential rain and floods, is a much better example of how to write a weather related novel.
I felt the same way about the triple shooting; there isn’t enough mourning. Surely a murder such as that would change a town, giving it a more oppressive and bleak atmosphere but as with the drought this doesn’t come thorough in Harper’s writing.
My other issue with The Dry is the ending. 80% of the book is pretty good and I genuinely wanted to find out who did it but the answer left me feeling disappointed. After some really good plot build up I expected an OMG ending but it was more like a whimper and there was another thirty pages to get through after the big reveal, which didn’t do the book any favours. A pretty average crime novel.