The Dry – A Fantastic Crime Novel by Newcomer Jane Harper

Is The Dry Really That Good?

When I read that the film rights had already been sold for this book I knew it had to be something special.  There are not many books out there that gain a film deal before becoming world-wide bestsellers so this story must hold something noteworthy.

Then I started to look at some of the headline reviews:

“A stunner… It’s a small-town, big-secrets page-turner with a shocker of an ending” (Booklist)

“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, Author of Off the Grid).

These two reviews alone made me pick the book up and I am so glad I did.

The Dry, Jane Harper, Crime Novel, Book, Australia

The Dry by Jane Harper

In recent years, crime novels seem to have taken on a new popularity with more and more authors publishing under this genre so to find a storyline that keeps your riveted from the start is becoming more difficult, but this is exactly what happened when I started to read The Dry.

“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate.  To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse”.

Seriously, with an opening like that would you be able to put the book down?

What Is The Dry Actually About?

Best friends from early childhood, Luke Hadler and Aaron Falk had grown up together in Kiewarra, a small farming community in Australia.  Over the years, these best friends pretty much spent all of their time together, until one doomed night when something awful happened, something that meant nothing would ever be the same again.

Soon after, one of them moved away, unable to beat off the stares and insinuations of the town; turning his back on everything he knew and all the people he held dear for a life in Melbourne, a city large enough to disappear in and remain anonymous. 

Kiewarra seems like a thing of the past until one tragic day when he receives the news that his one-time best friend has killed himself and murdered his family.  Unable to ignore the pleas of Gerry Hadler, or the note that he has sent, Aaron has no other option than to return to Kiewarra for the funeral of his friend.

“Luke lied.  You lied.  Be at the funeral”.

Luke Hadler hadn’t shown any signs of depression or stress which led to the massacre out at his farm.  Yes, things were tight but it was tight for everyone – running a farm; trying to sustain a homestead with livestock was hard for all in Kiewarra especially since it hadn’t rained for two solid years – so why would Luke feel like he was struggling more than others.

Surely, even if he was close to losing it all, there would have been another way out.  Why did Luke feel the need to kill not just himself but his wife and six year old child as well?

Having already been run out of town, going back filled Aaron with dread.  For days he had tried to come up with a valid reason why he would not be attending the funeral but after Gerry had called he felt a duty to return. 

Just 24 hours, that’s all he needed.  Get it, attend the funeral, spend one night and get out again – simple.

That was until Gerry and Barb Hadler called him over to their house and asked him to look deeper; to find out whether categorically Luke killed not only himself but also his family.

How could he refuse?  They had been like a family to him.  Having never had a mother, Aaron always felt close to Barb so seeing her so distressed upset him, he wanted to ease her suffering and if it meant having to stay around for an extra day or so, then that is what he would have to do.

As a police officer, Aaron knew he couldn’t investigate anything officially but when Gerry suggested going through the farm’s finances to see whether anything of interest stood out he assented and agreed to head over to the old farm to investigate.

Before long however, Aaron has joined forced with local cop Raco and together they revisit old statements, video clips and start digging further in an attempt to clear Luke’s name.  At the same time, Aaron’s presence in Kiewarra opens up old wounds, causing the locals to come together in a bid to once again run him out of town.

Unperturbed by what is going on around him, Aaron is determined to find out the truth.  Not only does he want to know whether Luke really did kill his family, he also wants to know once-and-for-all what happened twenty years ago.

Will Aaron be able to find out what really happened on the fateful day to his friend?  Will he ever uncover the truth to what happened twenty years ago?

Our Thoughts on The Dry

It is not very often that a book grips me from the first sentence.  Normally I have to read a chapter or two before deciding whether I want to continue with it but The Dry was different.  I want to know what the flies were interested in.  Morbid I know, but I do enjoy reading a good crime novel and I guarantee that this falls into that category.

By the end of the first couple of chapters, I was enthralled: I wanted to know what had really happened both to Luke and to Aaron twenty years ago.

This is a book that doesn’t disappoint.  It does fizzle out half way through like so many crime novels do and it is not until the very end that some of your questions are answered, and trust me you will have questions.

If you decide to read no other crime novel this year I really do urge you to pick The Dry up.

Jane Harper, Author, The Dry, Australia Crime Novel

Jane Harper Author

 Sounds like a book you would read?  Then order your copy here now.

Have you read any good Australian crime novels you would recommend to others?

We did receive a free copy of The Dry to read and review on Travelling Book Junkie but as always all views and opinions are our own.

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