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The Dry: A Novel Hardcover – January 10, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of January 2017: I was surprised to realize that The Dry was Jane Harper's debut novel. The writing is fantastic, and the plot - where many mystery/thrillers fall short these days - was completely unpredictable in the best ways possible. Federal Agent, Aaron Faulk, returns to his hometown in Australia to mourn, and inevitably investigate, his best friend's apparent suicide. What comes next is a series of twists and turns that will keep you guessing all the way until the end. I repeatedly found myself shocked and pulled in by Harper's fast paced and engrossing writing. Truly a fantastic read and hopefully the first of many to come from Ms. Harper. --Penny Mann, The Amazon Book Review
“Ms. Harper is not one to drop a fact...without using it later. She has jampacked her swift debut thriller with sneaky moves that the reader has to track with care… It’s hard to believe this is her first novel… The Dry is a breathless page-turner, driven by the many revelations Ms. Harper dreams up… If you enjoy being hoodwinked…you’ll love Ms. Harper’s sleight of hand… A secret on every page… Ms. Harper has made her own major mark.”
―The New York Times, Janet Maslin
"One of the most stunning debuts I've ever read. I could feel the searing heat of the Australia setting. Every word is near perfect. The story builds like a wave seeking the purchase of earth before it crashes down and wipes out everything you might have thought about this enthralling tale. Read it!"
―David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Guilty
“Leads down a convoluted page-turning trail to an explosive ending. It will have you wearing out the pages flipping back looking for the well-disguised clues. You may find this is the best mystery you have read all year.”
“A stunner…It’s a small-town, big-secrets page-turner with a shocker of an ending…Recommend this one to fans of James Lee Burke and Robert Crais, who mix elements of “bromance” into their hard-boiled tales.”
―Booklist, starred review
“Devastating debut…a suspenseful tale of sound and fury as riveting as it is horrific.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A nail-biting thriller…A chilling story set under a blistering sun, this fine debut will keep readers on edge and awake long past bedtime.”
―Kirkus, starred review
"The Dry is one of the most talked-about debuts of the new year....Harper’s story is tightly plotted and moves briskly, the tension as brittle and incendiary as the dried-out crops on the Kiewarra farms. But it is the beautifully evoked landscape and the portrayal of a gloomy outpost on the edge of a desert that are the stars of the show."
“A thrilling procedural that pays off on every level.”
"Harper writes with precision and creates a tense atmosphere on the brink of combustion."
"With The Dry, Jane Harper immediately takes her place among the elites in the mystery world. If this book doesn't garner an Edgar (Best First Novel) or two (Best Novel), there is no justice. Terrific characters, unique and evocative setting, knockout plot construction. This book has it all."
―John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of The Fall
"It’s extremely rare and exciting to read a debut that enthralls from the very first page and then absolutely sticks the landing. Told with heart and guts and an authentic sense of place that simply cannot be faked, The Dry is the debut of the year.”
―C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Off The Grid
"Every so often a debut novel arrives that is so tightly woven and compelling it seems the work of a novelist in her prime. That's what Jane Harper has given us with The Dry, a story so true to setting and tone it seemed I fell asleep in Virginia only to wake in Australian heat. It's rare, that sense of transportation, and I loved every minute of it. Thank you, Jane Harper."
―John Hart, New York Times bestselling author of Redemption Road
“From the first paragraph onward, Jane Harper creates a menacing landscape out of which long-held secrets emerge. The Dry is a marvelous novel that once begun is hard to put down, once finished even harder to forget.”
―Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
“You will feel the heat, taste the dust and blink into the glare. The Dry is a wonderful crime novel that shines a light into the darkest corner of a sunburnt country.”
―Michael Robotham, New York Times bestselling author of Life or Death
“Elegant…After two decades away, a federal agent returns to the small farming community he grew up in. The old crime still looms, but he gets roped into solving a new one. You won’t sleep until he does.”
“A winner destined for widespread appeal…a beautifully constructed, chilling page turner that you won’t soon forget. It’s a multilayered, stiletto sharp read…that packs a punch as blistering as the Australian sun it’s set under.” ―Open Letters Monthly
“Fans of Tana French or Laura McHugh won't want to miss this tense but probing thriller.”
“Every now and then an Australian crime novel comes along to stop your breath and haunt your dreams…There is about The Dry something mythic and valiant. This a story about heroism, the sins of the past, and the struggle to atone.”
―Sydney Morning Herald
“Poised to be one of the season’s biggest hits.”
―Elle.com, The 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017
"Told with heart-breaking precision and emotional power...If you read only one crime novel this year, make it this one."
“A razor-sharp crime yarn dripping in the sights, sounds and smells of the Australian bush…The storytelling is accomplished, with a bald sparseness to the writing that draws you in and characterization that rings resoundingly true…as the action twists and turns, the pace build[s] to a fantastic finale that will leave you breathless.”
―Australian Women’s Weekly
“A tightly plotted page-turner that kept me reading well into the night…Harper shines a light on the highs and lows of rural life – the loyalty born of collective endurance in adversity, as well as the loneliness and isolation, and the havoc wrought by small-town gossip. She also explores the nature of guilt and regret, and the impact of the past on the present. In this cracker of a book Harper maintains the suspense, with the momentum picking up as it draws to its nerve-wracking conclusion.”
―Australian Financial Review
“The Dry is a page-turner written with a maturity of style rarely seen in a first-time novelist and it’s here the writer excels. Harper’s exploration of the pressures of a small town where people are not able to escape the past is thoughtful and mature. Her plot twists and layering are intricate and subtle and keep you guessing to the end while the townspeople grow on you despite their dirty secrets. Harper’s well-executed final scenes are both filmic and tense, and sure to spark a few did-you-guess-it discussions.”
―The West Australian
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Top Customer Reviews
Overnight I finished Jane Harper’s novel - a story I found difficult to put down until I reached the last page. For a first novel it is outstanding. The author writes in beautiful, descriptive language and, at the same time, keeps socking the reader between the eyes with the revelations that unfold in this terrible story of a brutal family murder in an outback country town - a town that seeps with anger, bitterness, violence, oppressive heat and blow-flies.
As a reader I came to feel either a strong affinity or hate/anger towards each character. It’s that kind of book. The characters are developed so well that I am still thinking about them as real people as I write this review.
I appreciated the details of country life and the little things described that only people who have lived in small Australian outback towns can fully appreciate.
The complexity of the story - the “whodunit?” builds almost to screaming level by the time the truth starts to emerge. Beyond solving the brutal murder of three family members, we become immersed in other powerful stories from twenty years back that could be linked with the current crime. Or are they?
This is a five out of five novel for me and I’ll certainly be looking out for Jane Harper’s future novels.
The story is set in a small rural town in Australia (wonderfully described....feels like you are there), Federal Agent Falk returns from his job in Melbourne to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood best friend, now dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing his wife and young child (leaving their infant alive, though). Small towns usually contain small minds and judgement has been passed. It's not comfortable. So it's with considerable trepidation that Falk agrees to a request from the deceased's parents to look a little closer into the deaths. This present-day mystery is cleverly woven with the last questionable death that occurred in the community decades earlier, one that Falk was suspected of contributing to.
As you may have seen from my status updates, I did NOT guess the culprit until revelation was imminent in the story. And that is a very good thing (who likes a mystery where you've known whodunit for hundreds of pages before it's revealed?). Just about everything about this novel was a very good thing. Which brings us back to my 4 stars rather than 5. I deducted one star simply because in 3 or 4 months, I probably won't remember the plot or characters. Some books - even if they aren't technically perfect - just have soul. They resonate with you. You remember them years after you turned the last page and still grab them for re-reads. The Dry just wasn't one of those books.
I still recommend it (highly) because of the enjoyable experience of the actual read. And you might experience more "soul" in it than I did.
So what was there to like? Well, it opened with enough of a bang to reel me in. An entire family--Luke, his wife, Karen, and their little boy, Billy, has been slaughtered. Only baby Charlotte survived untouched. The rural farming town, Kiewarra, is in a drought, and everyone seems guilty of something. There are also menacing characters, but their generic and stereotypical attributes lacked the visceral that can be had with imaginative and original portrayals.
The federal agent, Aaron Falk, who comes back to Kiewarra after twenty years (not a new concept), was congenial, and kept the pages turning, although, again, I feel that the author relied on stringing together an overused rather than original character here. (However, a movie, in the hands of the right director, could potentially rise above the book).
Aaron returns to Kiewarra to investigate the death of his former best friend, and because of an urgent letter of request from Luke's parents. He intended to stay a day and rush back to Melbourne, but extends his stay because police sergeant Raco invites him to remain and assist in solving this heinous crime. Falk, in the past two decades, only saw Luke occasionally when Luke was in Melbourne on business. However, he learns pretty quickly that the community has emotionally tried and convicted Luke of murder-suicide even before the investigation is underway, despite the fact that Luke was known as a stand-up guy. But there’s a question in his past that this murder causes folks to revisit.
The upshot of the past concerns the suicide of s girl that Falk and Luke both had a crush on, Ellie Deacon, the reason Falk had to leave. Rounding that out was Gretchen, the cheerleader type who completed the foursome, and was Luke’s main squeeze until he met Karen. The townspeople remember Luke and Aaron’s alibi for their whereabouts on the day of Ellie’s death, and old suspicions return and foment.
Falk and his father were forced to leave with shame and fear, blamed for Ellie’s death, despite her Virginia Woolf-style drowning. But Harper’s depiction of Aaron conveys too obviously that he is unambiguously “good,” despite the mystery of “Luke lied. You lied.” There were too few characters that were complex; they were either good or villainous. None of them transpired into lifelike and organic, although the author used a few traits to remind us of some blueprinted characters that could have been original about a thousand books ago.
The best parts of the novel, (which kept me reading), was Harper’s openness to explore the human condition. The downside was that once she broached subjects such as integrity, decency, small-town crazy, greed, jealousy, and redemption, she either overstated it or underdeveloped what she put in motion, using a style that felt like forced mournful. And the investigation looked Keystone Kop-ish, but that wasn’t the author’s intention. Harper meant to stage the sloppy police work as, instead, gradual and incremental discovery, but I think Harper needs to do more research on police work, especially as she is going to continue a series on Aaron Falk.
Gretchen, the girl+friend (but not girlfriend) from his past, was probably the most complex, contoured character. But, again, she was mostly derivative--the fiercely independent but vulnerable and attractive woman with secrets and torments that may or may not compromise her actions. As with most of the narrative, her relationship with Falk was predictable.
The book was mildly entertaining, but rather light on authenticity. The red herrings were conspicuous, and the denouement was a bit hard to swallow, and I predicted it based on Harper’s tendencies, style, and choices throughout the book. I would give her another try, however (but only in a stand-alone), with the hope that she’ll grow on her strengths-- of compassion for humanity, small town concerns, and the tough road to justice.