The Dry Review

Aaron Falk, a Melbourne based Federal Police Officer, returns to the drought-affected town in the wake of tragedy. The small country town Falk hasn’t been back to in twenty years is reeling from the shocking murder-suicide of the Halder family, perpetrated by Luke Halder, Falk’s childhood friend. The oppressive heat and the cracked, dry land pushes everyone to breaking point, especially when Falk starts asking uncomfortable questions at the behest of Luke’s father. The tragedy and Falk’s return dredges up old memories and suspicions from the past, for Falk and for the town. Can Falk uncover the real truth?

I recommend this book for those that enjoy crime fiction and/or stories set in secretive small towns.

Harper’s book, The Dry, is a captivating crime novel with many layers. Harper’s straightforward way of writing is to the point and lacks unnecessary vagueness. I say unnecessary because Harper’s direct style only enhances the mystery of the main plot, rather than manufacturing it. The mystery presented is solid and questions crop up naturally. The reveal of relevant information occurs organically through the investigative methods Falk and Raco use and is interceded within the interactions between characters and the interaction of characters with the setting.

The small town setting also give Harper’s novel a very contained feeling. Kiewarra is small and everybody knows everybody. Even though I am not familiar with that kind of community, Harper’s descriptions and characters bring it to life in a way that makes it very relatable.

Another thing Harper does well ties back in with the book’s title, The Dry. And Kiewarra is very dry. Plagued by long-lasting drought, Harper’s description of the land and the effect of the drought on both land and people makes your heart ache. There’s something haunting about the way Harper describes it, vivid and almost tangible, like you could smell the heat and hear the rustle of brittle scrub yourself.

One of the more satisfying things about this novel was the penny-dropping moment. Up until that point it feels like Falk is staring at an unfinished puzzle that had no picture on the box and no way to even know if all the pieces were there. A table full of puzzle pieces that must fit together, even is he didn’t know what they looked like.

I was less satisfied with the resolution of the subplot, Ellie Deacon’s death. This is very much a personal opinion, but I am glad that Falk, at least, found some finality to her story.

This book was recommended to me and I’m glad it was. I very much enjoyed this book and my introduction to Jane Harper as an author. I’m looking forward to checking out more of her work.

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