In the sleepy town of Evelyn Bay in Tasmania, people struggle to forget. It has always been the case; everyone knows everyone else’s business, there is no hiding in a place where the so-called high-rises are just two storeys. So when Kieran reappears with his girlfriend Mia and baby daughter Audrey they were always going to be the talk of the town. Even after all this time.
But what did Kieran do to cause others such discomfort? At the age of 30, he had hoped that the gossip from 12 years ago would have died down, but even the 19-year-old working in the kitchen at the local bar is disgusted that he has returned.
It seems that tragedy follows this couple around. Clearly, Kieran has done something or was part of something that resulted in something unforgivable taking place and then we discover that Mia’s school friend, Gabrielle Birch, also disappeared 12 years ago, during one of the worst storms ever recorded along this stretch of coastline.
Now back in Evelyn Bay, helping his parents pack up their forever home in order to move his father into a home to support with his deteriorating state caused by dementia, Kieran and his ghosts start to resurface.
12 years ago, Kieran’s brother and his best friend were called in to help rescue Kieran during the aforementioned horrible storm. He had got himself into trouble and was stranded. An emergency call was made and his brother picked it up, heard that someone was in danger and took his own boat out to see how he could help. Unfortunately, the weather was so overpowering that it knocked the boat over, causing both on board to drown. No-one, not even Kieran’s parents, has been able to forgive him for it, with many in the town labelling him a killer, even though it was a freak, unpredictable accident.
12 years it has taken the town to get over the death of these two young men and just as it appears to be doing so, another person dies. This time it’s a young woman, a student and artist, who has come to Evelyn Bay to work for the summer. She is found on the shoreline, just along the beach from Kieran’s own parent’s house.
As the new investigation gets underway, older issues are pushed back into the forefront of people’s minds and the close-knot town start to turn on one another – secrets don’t remain that way for long and friendships begin to strain at their seams. While others will begin to question incidents that happened in the past, wondering whether they actually occurred the way people are remembering them.
Will the murderer be found? Will the town find the answers they crave? Will past events be rewritten?
My Thoughts on The Survivors
I have read every one of Jane Harper’s previous books and while some authors seem to struggle to find new storylines, once again this writer has come up with something unique and individual to her style.
The setting is becoming a strong theme in her writing, each time the narrative is set somewhere remote, where the locals become the backbone of the story. Faces don’t fade away but instead are slowly introduced at critical stages to advance the plot further.
This reoccurring trope is becoming a signature motif in Harper’s writing and the feeling of isolation and emptiness she creates takes the reading experience to a completely different level. I often feel that crime writing can become a bit stagnant; whodunit’s predictable and grisly murders a bit over the top.
Jane Harper’s writing is different. While reading her books, I feel like I am being enveloped into the community; becoming part of the scene as an innocent bystander trying to find out what has happened. Instead of feeling removed, I feel like a character seeping into the pages, trying to uncover the truth.
Her characters are slow to develop, but not in a frustrating way. She is an author that likes to hold back; doesn’t want to give her readers an overflowing amount of information all at once. Instead, she provides you with a little tit-bit in order to reignite your intrigue without being obvious. If I think about the great crime writers of the past, those that would slowly reveal details of either their characters or scene, I can’t help but compare their works to those of Jane Harper.
In each of her novels, including The Survivors, she has created something quite believable; acts of violence that would not seem uncommon in the real world. It is almost like she has taken a true-life crime story and transformed it into something that would capture her audience. What others would consider mundane she has crafted into a successful story.
Just like her other novels, while reading The Survivors, it felt like an actual event was unfolding. The way the small town clicks formed; the fact that people were quick to turn on one another if they felt threatened, I can envisage it all happening. The mentality of a small town, trying to stick together no matter what, openly sharing their pain and frustration with one another when they feel that one of their own has done something truly unforgivable, is something I am sure many who read her work will be able to relate to. Perhaps they even live in a similar community, where everyone knows everyone else and their business, after all, there are neighbourhood gossips the world over.
If you have yet to pick up one of Jane Harper’s novels, they are all standalone, so they do not need to be read in any particular order. Therefore you can either start with her first novel or delve straight into the pages of The Survivors. Whichever way you choose to start, however, it will be difficult not to seek out her other titles afterwards. Each story she writes plays out in a logical manner but will leave you guessing. Even those among us who pore over crime novels will struggle with to uncover the culprit before the closing chapters.
Have you read The Survivors or any other Jane Harper novels? Do my thoughts reflect yours, or are your views conflicting with mine?
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