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#TuesdayBookBlog THE SURVIVORS: A Novel by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) (@GraceEVincent) (@janeharperautho) If you haven’t read a Jane Harper novel, now is the time #bookreview

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the newest book by an author I’ve become a big fan of. Just a word of warning: the book isn’t available everywhere and in all the formats yet, but should be coming out in the next week or so everywhere (if there are no delays).

The Survivors by Jane Harper

The Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper

Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets in The Survivors, a thrilling mystery by New York Times bestselling author Jane Harper

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

https://www.amazon.com/Survivors-Novel-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B087ZY8NXX/

https://www.amazon.es/Survivors-Novel-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B087ZY8NXX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408711982/

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her books are published in more than 40 territories worldwide, and The Dry is being made into a major film starring Eric Bana. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Little, Brown UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I discovered Jane Harper’s talent in her second novel, Force of Nature, I have been hooked ever since, and I have read all of her books till now (you can check my review of her third novel, The Lost Man, here). I have no hesitation in recommending her books to any readers who appreciate great writing, complex characters, a good plot, and a talent for bringing to life the landscape and the setting of her stories (all located in Australia, so far) and turning them into an integral part of the novel. In The Survivors, Harper takes us to Tasmania, and although the specific location is fictional, I felt as if I was there, looking into the ocean and contemplating the sculpture of the Survivors slowly disappearing under the tide.

The Survivors of the title make reference to a sculpture symbolising, perhaps, the survivors of an ancient wreck off the coast of the little town where the story is set, Evelyn Bay, a place where everybody knows everybody’s name and stories (that is, apart from that of the outsiders who visit during the touristic season), and where a tragedy took place about a decade ago. It seems as if the inhabitants had moved on from it, from the big storm that caused the deaths of two young men and during which a young girl also disappeared, but like the sculpture of the survivors that disappears under the water but always resurfaces again, some things refuse to remain buried (or submerged). When the body of a young woman —an art student who had come to the town looking for inspiration— appears murdered on the beach, memories are stirred and questions are asked anew.

The novel is a mystery, although like all of Harper’s novels, it is not a frantically paced one, and her choice of narrator (the story is told in the third person from the point of view of Kieran, a young man who barely survived the storm, and who’s been trying to deal with his guilt over his older brother’s death ever since) is particularly clever. Kieran is an insider, in so long as he was born in Evelyn Bay and knows (indeed was one of the main participants in the drama) far too well what happened during the big storm. His family was one of the worst affected by it, and they are still trying to get over his brother’s loss, even if his mother insists in putting up a front. (I liked Verity. She is a survivor, and has to be strong for everybody, always coping with everything, and now also having to look after her husband, Brian, who is suffering from dementia, and she never complains). But he has been living in Sidney, has had a child with Mia (another insider/outsider), and has kept away from the place for a long time, so he can also see things from a different perspective, from a certain distance.

Kieran has come back with Mia and their young baby daughter, Audrey (she behaves like a real baby, and I loved the fact that the author thanks her own baby and a niece for providing her ready material for the character) to help her mother pack the house, as she has decided that her husband needs to go into a nursing home, and she will move to an apartment close by. Kieran and Mia take the chance to reconnect with old friends, Ash, Sean, and Olivia, and although the story is told mostly chronologically, Kieran’s mind goes back to the past, to the time when he met Ash, to their youth, to his life as a teenager in Evelyn Bay, and, eventually, to the events of the day that have stayed with him and changed his life and that of many others. I don’t want to go into the plot in too much detail, but as I said before, there is a murder, and when a female detective from the city comes to head the investigation, a lot of unanswered questions resurface again.

I’ve mentioned some of the characters, and they are all interesting, although we only get to see them from Kieran’s point of view (although sometimes we can gather some information from their interaction with the main character, or from the comments made by others, which sometimes make us question his opinion and version of events). Kieran is not an unreliable narrator in the standard sense, although he has somewhat blurry memories of some of the events that happened on the day of the storm and immediately after. He was quite traumatised by the events, and Harper creates a realistic psychological portrayal of the character, somebody trying to cope with his guilty feelings and holding onto the hope provided by his partner and the baby. He struggles to follow the clues and at times he refuses to look into things too deeply, although eventually he comes to a shocking realisation. I felt there could have been more time dedicated to his current life and his relationship with Mia (we get a flashback of their meeting and coming together in Sidney, but I wasn’t sure it created a clear enough picture of his recent life, compared to the power of the depiction of the past), although I think the focus on past events, not only his, but also that of other characters (his mother, who still keeps a shrine for her dead son; Ash, who resents any changes made to his grandmother’s house; Olivia’s mother, who can’t let go of her younger daughter’s death; Sean, who has taken up the role of his brother in the business and with his nephew; even the chief of police, who’ll rather leave the force than move to a new team elsewhere) symbolises the fact that they are all stuck in the past; that they’ve never truly moved on, like the Survivors.

There are twists and turns, and red herrings as well; there is a famous author who has come to live there and who seems to have a lot of questions of his own, and the detective in charge seems to know more than she is letting on, but this is not a mystery for people who merely enjoy the pursuit of the clues and the piecing together of an answer. The book’s rhythm is meandering, and a bit like the tide, it ebbs and flows, and there are too many other threads going on to make this a satisfying novel for people who prefer a more formulaic take on the classic mystery and are after a quick and uncomplicated read. The writing style is precious, as usual, and I loved the sense of place and the ragged beauty of the location, the small town (that feels very real, with its fierce loyalty mixed with pettiness, gossip and resentments), and the cliffs and caves. The thrill of the risk, the cold of the water, the dangers hiding in the darkest corners make it very compelling, but it is not a fast page-turner. On the other hand, those who try to avoid graphic violence and gore can be reassured there isn’t much here. Everything is explained at the end, and although I can’t say I knew who the guilty party was for certain, I was fairly suspicious by then and wasn’t surprised by the revelation. I enjoyed some aspects of the resolution more than others, but overall I think it works, at least in my opinion.

In summary, this is another great Jane Harper novel. It is not my favourite (although I’m not sure that I have “one” favourite), but I am sure the setting and many of the characters and events will stay with me for a long time. There are sad moments, tragic events, realistic depictions of guilt, bereavement, grief, anger, life with a dementia sufferer, and reflections on the nature of memory, friendship, and small-town living. I recommend it to anybody who likes mysteries that go beyond the formula, to Harper’s fans, and also to anybody who hasn’t read her yet, because you are missing a treat.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share with anybody who might be interested, keep safe, and keep smiling (from behind the mask). 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #THELOSTMAN by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK)(@caolinndouglas) (@GraceEVincent) (@janeharperautho) As good, if not better, than Harper’s previous books. Read it now! #TheLastMan

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for the launch of this fabulous book by an author whose two previous books I have loved so much. And I’m not the only one.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Two brothers meet in the remote Australian outback when the third brother is found dead, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

Two brothers meet at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. In an isolated belt of Western Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbor, their homes four hours’ drive apart.

The third brother lies dead at their feet.

Something caused Cam, the middle child who had been in charge of the family homestead, to die alone in the middle of nowhere.

So the eldest brother returns with his younger sibling to the family property and those left behind. But the fragile balance of the ranch is threatened. Amidst the grief, suspicion starts to take hold, and the eldest brother begins to wonder if more than one among them is at risk of crumbling as the weight of isolation bears down on them all.

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper/dp/0349142130/

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper/dp/0349142130/

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B07FM4HQ9N/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B07FM4HQ9N/

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group UK, for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. I’m also grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for the launch of the book. After having read both of Jane Harper’s previous books, The Dry (you can check my review here) and Force of Nature (here is my review), I rushed to grab this one as soon as I saw it was available. And yes, although it is quite different from the other two, it is another winner.

The two previous books, two thrillers/mysteries, had as protagonist Aaron Falk, a federal investigator of fraud and related crimes, who somehow gets involved in cases outside his comfort zone, for different reasons. Here, there is no professional investigator (however loosely Falk’s credentials might relate to the mystery at hand). I had mentioned in my reviews of the two previous books the fact that the stories put me in mind of domestic noir, and this is even more the case here. It might sound strange to talk about noir when the setting is the Australian outback (the nearest town is Balamara, Winton, Queensland), but plot and character-wise, it fits neatly into the category. And it is atmospheric, for sure. Harper is masterful at making us feel as if we were there, in this unusual and totally unique place, where going out for a walk might end up getting you killed.

The story is set around Christmas time, (summer in Australia), and is told in the third person from the point of view of Nathan Bright, the oldest son of the Bright family, who lives alone in his farm after his divorce, four hours away from the rest of his family, and very far from his ex-wife and his son, Xander, who live in Brisbane. Xander is visiting his father for Christmas (he is sixteen and due to his studies it is likely this might be the last Christmas they spend together for the foreseeable future), and as they prepare to celebrate the holidays, Nathan gets a call. His middle brother, Cameron, has been found dead in pretty strange circumstances. His dead body was by the stockman’s grave, a grave in the middle of the desert subject of many stories and local legends, and a place Cameron had made popular thanks to one of his paintings. Bub, the younger brother, is waiting for Nathan and explains to him that their brother’s car was found nine miles away, in perfect working order, fully stocked with food and water. So, what was their brother doing there, and why did he die of dehydration? When the questions start coming, it seems that Cam, a favourite in town and well-liked by everybody, had not been himself recently and seemed worried. Was it suicide then, or something else?

Nathan is not the typical amateur detective of cozy mysteries, another aspect that reminds me of domestic noir. He is not somebody who enjoys mysteries, or a secret genius, and he only gets involved because he keeps observing things that don’t seem to fit in with the official explanation. As this is his family, he cannot help but keep digging and has to remain involved because, for one, he has to attend his brother’s funeral. The main characters in domestic noir tend to have troubled lives and be hindered by their problems, no matter how convinced they are that they have it all under control. As the book progresses, they learn how wrong they are. In this case, Nathan is a flawed character and lacks insight into his state of mind and that of his life. He has committed some terrible mistakes (perhaps even unforgivable ones), and he is the black sheep of the family, in appearance at least. As you might expect, things are not as they seem, and during the book he grows and learns, and not only about his brother’s death. Nathan might not be the most familiar of characters or the most immediately sympathetic to many readers due to his closed-off nature, but through the novel we also learn about his past and the circumstances that made him the man he is now.

The clues to the case appear at a slow pace and naturally, rather than feeling forced, and they do not require a lot of procedural or specialized knowledge. There are also red herrings, but most of them go beyond an attempt at wrong-footing readers, and provide important background information that helps build up a full picture of the people and the place. In style, the book reminds us of old-fashioned mysteries, without extreme violence or excessive attention being paid to the procedures of the police or to complex tests. No DNA tests and no CSI on sight here. This is a book about characters, motivations, and the secrets families keep.

In contrast to the first two novels written by Harper, this book is deceptively simple in its structure. The book takes place over a few days, around Christmas, and, as I said, it is all told from the point of view of Nathan. The story is told chronologically, although there are moments when we get some important background into the story, be it thanks to Nathan’s memories, or to episodes and events narrated to him by other characters. The book manages to keep a good balance between showing and telling and it is very atmospheric, although it moves at its own pace, meandering and perfectly suited to the setting. I’ve never visited the Australian outback and have never experienced anything like the extreme weather conditions described in the book, but I felt the oppressive sensation, the heat, the agoraphobia induced by the open spaces, and the horror of imagining yourself in Cam’s circumstances. The initial setting, with the lonely gravestone, made me think of a Western, and the life in the ranch, isolated and extreme, where surviving requires a daily fight against the elements, made the story feel primordial and timeless. Although the story is set in modern times (there is no specific date, but despite the distance from civilisation, there is talk of mobiles, internet, GPS, etc.), due to the location, people are forced to live as if time had not truly moved on, and they have to depend on themselves and those around them, because if your car or your air conditioning break down, it could mean your death.

Apart from her evident skill in describing Australia and everyday life in the outback (she refers to her research and sources in her acknowledgments), the author is masterful at creating characters that are multi-dimensional and psychologically and emotionally believable, as I explained when talking about the main protagonist. These are people used to living alone and not allowing their vulnerabilities to show. Even within the family, its members keep secrets from each other and don’t share their feelings, although they might all know about what has happened, because that’s what they’ve always seen and known, and perhaps they believe that if you don’t talk about it you can keep it contained. The secrets are slowly revealed, and although many readers will suspect the nature of some of them, that does not diminish their power and impact. The themes discussed are, unfortunately, very current, and although I won’t talk about them in detail, to avoid spoilers, I am sure they will resonate with most readers. Although the ending will probably not be a huge surprise to most readers, it is built up expertly, and I found it very satisfying.

I had to share a couple of samples of writing, although it was a hard choice:

In the centre was a headstone, blasted smooth by a hundred-year assault from sand, wind and sun. The headstone stood a metre tall and was still perfectly straight. It faced west, towards the desert, which was unusual out there. West was rarely anyone’s first choice.

The name of the man buried beneath had long since vanished and the landmark was known to locals —all sixty-five of them, plus 100,000 head of cattle— simply as the stockman’s grave. That piece of land had never been a cemetery; the stockman had been put into the ground where he had died, and in more than a century no-one had joined him.

There was something about the brutal heat when the sun was high in the sky and he was watching the slow meandering movement of the herds. Looking out over the wide-open plains and seeing the changing colours in the dust. It was the only time when he felt something close to happiness… It was harsh and unforgiving, but it felt like home.

In sum, this is a book for people who enjoy an unusual mystery and books focused on characters rather than fast-paced plots. If you love well-written books, and don’t mind investing some time into the story and its characters, especially if you are keen on an Australian setting, you should not miss this one. I will be on the lookout for the author’s next book.

Thanks to NetGalley the publisher and to this author I wholeheartedly recommend, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

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#Bookreview THE DRY: The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year 2017 by Jean Harper (@LittleBrownUK) (@janeharperautho)Tense, atmospheric, and reflective Australian #crimenovel.

Hi all:

This is the second part (although it should be the first) of the post I published last week. Oh well, this is me we’re talking about, after all.

The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry: The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year 2017 by Jane Harper

‘One of the most stunning debuts I’ve ever read…Read it!’ David Baldacci

WINNER OF THE CWA GOLD DAGGER AWARD 2017
AMAZON.COM’S #1 PICK FOR BEST MYSTERY & THRILLER OF THE YEAR 2017
The Gold Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year
Australian Book Industry Award for Fiction Book of the Year

WATERSTONES THRILLER OF THE MONTH
THE SIMON MAYO RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB CHOICE
SUNDAY TIMES CRIME THRILLER OF THE MONTH

 

‘Packed with sneaky moves and teasing possibilities that keep the reader guessing…The Dry is a breathless page-turner’ Janet Maslin, New York Times

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

And if you loved The Dry, don’t miss Jane Harper’s second novel Force of Nature, now available

Editorial reviews:

Review

It is hard to believe that this accomplished piece of writing, which returns again and again to the savage beauty of the landscape, is Harper’s first novel – Sunday Times, Crime Book of the Month January 2017

Wonderfully atmospheric, The Dry is both a riveting murder mystery and a beautifully wrought picture of a rural community under extreme pressure – Mail on Sunday Thriller of the Week, January 2017

The writing is fantastic, and the plot – where many mystery/thrillers fall short these days – was completely unpredictable in the best ways possible… Aaron Falk, 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 – An Amazon Best Book of January 2017, Amazon.com

One of the most assured crime debuts I’ve encountered in many years . . . It grips like a vice from first paragraph to last, atmospherically evoking the small town of Kiewarra . . . Told with heart-breaking precision and emotional power . . . If you read only one crime novel this year make it this one – Daily Mail

Solid storytelling that, despite a plethora of flashbacks, never loses momentum, strong characterization and a sense of place so vivid that you can almost feel the blistering heat add up to a remarkably assured debut – Laura Wilson, Guardian

A sad, beautifully told tale of lives regretted – The Times

‘Jane Harper’s fleet novel about a triple killing is packed with sneaky moves and teasing possibilities that keep the reader guessing…hard to believe this is her first novel… The Dry is a breathless page-turner…The dryness that gives the book its eerie title looms large in the novel’s finale, when certain kinds of weapons become even more terrible than those used to butcher the Hadlers. And a book with a secret on every page now has threats blooming everywhere, too. The Dry has caught the attention of Reese Witherspoon, who has a solid track record for spotting novels with strong movie potential. (Want some evidence? Gone Girl.) But Ms Hadler has made her own major mark long before any film version comes along – Janet Maslin, New York Times

Like True Detective set in the Australian outback…Amid the worst drought in a century, the tension and stifling heat running through the small town of Kiewarra crackle off the pages – Stylist magazine, this month’s most exciting new novels

Set in a small Australian town during a blistering drought, this creepy and tightly woven tale about a detective investigating a brutal triple-murder is getting huge global attention for all the right reasons – it’s brilliant! – Heat magazine

Pulse-thumping suspense… Building from the first page, rammed with atmosphere, suspicions, lies and tension, this is a first-class crime debut’ – Fanny Blake’s Great Reads, Woman & Home

Settle in a comfy chair and read . . . The Dry by Jane Harper. This gripping novel charts a policeman’s unwilling participation in the investigation of a terrible murder in the town of his youth, and is set to be the biggest crime release of 2017 – GQ magazine

Tipped to be one of the biggest novels of the year . . . a gripping read – Hello magazine

Jane Harper creates an atmosphere of simmering tension right from the off. Her version of High Noon in the Outback flickers between past and present to slowly reveal what actually happened between characters who are far more engaging than the cogs usually found in clockwork thrillers . . . A more than promising debut – Evening Standard

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

One of the best crime debuts of 2017 – literary Broadchurch meets Top of the Lake – Joseph Knox, author of Sirens

There is something about isolated communities and secrets and lies that just really intrigues me and this is one heck of a thriller with all of those things and more . . . [this thriller] slowly bubbles like a pan on a stove and you think you can guess the moment when the pan lid is just going to explode. But it’s only been a little while since the water started to bubble, it’ll be ages yet…..then BOOM. I had my eye on that pan lid from the start and I didn’t guess what would happen. My heart is still beating like mad days after finishing the book – The Book Trail (via NetGalley)

You can almost feel the searing heat of the Australian drought in this intense, gripping, atmospheric tale. A compulsive read. – Kate Hamer, bestselling author of The Girl in the Red Coat

Put up your tray table, buckle your seatbelt, and sit back: you’ve found the right book for this flight. Set in the flash-ready tinder of a town going under, The Dry is a cracking good read that will have you hoping the pilot decides to circle the airport before landing. A hit by land or air. – Laura McBride, author of We Are Called to Rise

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, CWA Gold Dagger Winner, bestselling author of Life or Death

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 – John Hart, New York Times bestselling author of Redemption Road

Terrific characters, unique and evocative setting, knockout plot construction. This book has it all – John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of The Fall

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

[A] devastating debut…From the ominous opening paragraphs, all the more chilling for their matter-of-factness, Harper …spins a suspenseful tale of sound and fury as riveting as it is horrific – Publishers Weekly, starred review

A mystery that starts with a sad homecoming quickly turns into a nail-biting thriller about family, friends, and forensic accounting. Debut author Harper plots this novel with laser precision, keeping suspects in play while dropping in flashbacks that offer readers a full understanding of what really happened. The setting adds layers of meaning. Kiewarra is suffering an epic drought, and Luke’s suicide could easily be explained by the failure of his farm. The risk of wildfire, especially in a broken community rife with poverty and alcoholism, keeps nerves strung taut… A chilling story set under a blistering sun, this fine debut will keep readers on edge and awake long past bedtime – Kirkus, starred review

A stunner…It’s a small-town, big-secrets page-turner with a shocker of an ending. .. – Booklist, 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 – BookPage

A firecracker debut . . . Journalist Jane Harper proves literary is often mysterious, with her thriller The Dry capturing readers’ attention both for its final twist and its depiction of a hostile small Australian town beset by drought – West Australian

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

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

In this exhilarating debut (which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript), Falk goes back to a town ravaged by feelings of resentment and distrust that are exacerbated by drought . . . A community psychologically and socially damaged, Kiewarra resembles Henry Lawson’s bush. Australian novelists such as Harper, in a small and select company, are exploring disquieting, imaginative territories, far from the littoral or metropolis – Weekend Australian

In Jane Harper’s debut The Dry, long-held grudges are thrown in the mix to make for an absolute tinderbox – and a cracking read. Harper has delivered a tense, evocative thriller that paints a stark picture of what desperate times can do to a community. She slowly reveals the deep-worn tensions between characters in the small town, and it’s this that makes The Dry such a good read . . . tension crackles . . . It’s not surprising that Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard, has already snapped up film rights for The Dry. It has some decidedly Australian aspects but Harper’s basic point – about the desperate things people will do in desperate times – is universal – Adeleide Advertiser

Atmospheric and riveting, this remarkable debut announces a significant new talent – Morning Star

 Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dry-Sunday-Times-Crime-Book-ebook/dp/B01C37W582/

https://www.amazon.com/Dry-Sunday-Times-Crime-Book-ebook/dp/B01C37W582/

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE/

My review:

This is a bit of a peculiar situation. After reading great things about this novel and requesting the author’s second novel Force of Nature (you can check my review here) from NetGalley, I had to read it quickly to take part on a blog tour. When I looked at other reviews, there were so many comparisons to the first novel (although it can be read as a standalone) that I felt I should read the first novel to make my own mind up. That means I will be comparing the first novel to the second, rather than the other way around. Sorry. Why do things the easy way when one can complicate matters?

There is no doubt that Harper knows how to set a story and how to take full advantage of the landscape, atmosphere, and characteristics of the place and the people. She sets the story during a terrible drought in Australia, specifically in Kiewarra, and has the main protagonist (who is also the main character in Force, Aaron Falk, a police detective specializing on fraud and financial crimes) return to his place of birth, twenty years after having left in unfortunate circumstances. The story is also told in the third person, mostly from Falk’s point of view, although we also have fragments, that are differentiated from the rest of the story by being written in italics, that go back to the events that happened many years back (the events that made Falk and his father leave town when he was an adolescent), and also to the more recent deaths. These fragments, also written in the third person, are told from a variety of points of views, although it is not difficult to know which character’s point of view we are sharing. (Some readers enjoy the style and others don’t, so I’d recommend checking a sample of the book before making a decision).

In this story, Falk is called to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke, who has seemingly killed his wife and young son, and then committed suicide, only leaving his baby daughter (13 months old) alive. Luke’s parents are convinced that their son has not killed his family and himself, and ask for Falk’s help. The current killings bring back memories of the death of a young girl who was Falk and Luke’s friend and with it the suspicions of his possible involvement.

The mystery has some elements of the police procedural (as Falk joins forces with the new police Sergeant, Raco), also of the domestic noir (there are many secrets, mostly family secrets buried deep, and relationships that are not what they seem to be at first sight), and there are plenty of suspects, clues, red herrings, to keep us guessing. But the book does not follow a straight linear narrative, as I mentioned;  it does go into plenty of detail about things that do not seem to be always relevant to the murders, and its pace is not what we are used to in more formulaic thrillers. It is slow and contemplative at times, and the past weighs heavily on the investigation (especially on those who have matters pending). Although most of the violence takes place outside the page, and this is by no means the most explicitly violent novel I’ve read (I’m difficult to shock, though), there is violence and it deals in pretty dark subjects, so be warned. Whilst in some crime novels, even very dark ones, there are light and humorous moments that help release tension; there is hardly any of that here. What we have are insightful and contemplative moments, which go beyond the usual snarky comments by the cynical detective.

As an example, a particularly touching comment by Barb, Luke’s mother, talking about the aftermath of her son’s death:

‘No-one tells you this is how it’s going to be, do they? Oh yes, they’re all so sorry for your loss, all so keen to pop round and get the gossip when it happens, but no-one mentions having to go through your dead son’s drawers and return their library books, do they? No one tells you how to cope with that.’

I thought the small town was  realistically portrayed. The envies, the resentment, the discomfort of knowing that everybody is aware of everybody else’s business, and the prejudices and the tensions in a place where nobody can hide, and where you are never given the benefit of the doubt, felt true to life. Although I’ve never visited Australia, the dynamics of the place and its inhabitants, subject to major tensions due to the uncertainty the drought had brought to the local economy, create an atmosphere that is tense and oppressive, even if the story is not fast-paced.

The characters, in my opinion, are somewhat more clearly divided down morality lines in this novel than in the second, although it is not so evident in the beginning. Whilst in Force none of the characters come out of the book unscathed, and most of them are morally suspect, here there are good characters (although they might not appear to be) and some truly bad ones. Most of the characters (at least the good ones) carry a burden of guilt (in most cases for things they are not truly responsible for), whilst the bad characters seem unable/unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, no matter how cruel. As is the case for many investigators, Falk is also investigating his own past, and that is why he finds it so difficult to resolve the case. This process of rediscovery and personal digging will continue in the next novel. I would not say Falk is an immediately likeable character. I found him more consistent and easy to understand in the second book (of course, by then he had survived to the events of this novel, which would have had an impact on him), although he seems to come alive in some of his interactions with others (particularly Luke’s mother, a great character).

Overall, I felt the mystery part of the story is more intriguing and well-resolved here (even though the past case keeps interfering with the present; there are not as many loose ends and red-herrings here), although I did not mind that aspect of the second novel (that I found more morally complex). For me, this one is more of a novel for mystery lovers, especially for those who prefer to take their time and enjoy a different setting to the usual urban thriller. The second novel in the series pays more attention to how the story is told and to the characters themselves. But there is no doubt that Harper is a great writer and I’m sure we’ll keep reading her and about her in the future.

Ah, don’t miss this post with a recommendation of a book that people who have enjoyed The Dry might like (and I could not agree more. I love The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat. You can read my own review, here).

Thanks to the author, to Cathy for her recommendation, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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#TuesdayBookBlog FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) (@LittleBrownUK) (@kimberleynyam) Steady-paced, beautifully written, and morally ambiguous #ForceOfNature

Hi all:

I am very pleased to take part on the blog tour for the book Force of Nature by Jane Harper. This is the follow-up of a book that got a lot of attention, especially as it was the debut novel of the author (The Dry). And although I had not read it, I remembered the reviews and could not resist…

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature: by the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, The Dry by Jane Harper

The gripping new novel from the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, Waterstones Thriller of the Month, Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club Choice, The Dry.

FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Force-Nature-Jane-Harper/dp/B071P6W7D9/

https://www.amazon.com/Force-Nature-Jane-Harper/dp/B071P6W7D9/

Editorial Reviews

I loved The DryForce of Nature is even better. Brilliantly paced, it wrong-foots the reader like a rocky trail through the bush. I adored it (Susie Steiner, bestselling author of Missing, Presumed and Persons Unknown)

I loved The Dry by Jane Harper, I thought it was magnificent, like everybody else did…Fabulous! And her new book Force of Nature…such brilliance. From the first paragraph I was hooked – you just know you’re in the hands of a master. She’s such an excellent writer and the sense of place is so powerful (Marian Keyes)

Lord of the Flies in the Australian outback, with grown women in place of school boys. I loved every chilling moment of it. A blistering follow-up to The Dry from one of the best new voices in crime fiction (Sarah Hilary, author of the bestselling DI Marnie Rome series)

A major voice in contemporary fiction. Like Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels, Jane Harper’s deftly plotted mysteries double as sensitive inquiries into human nature, behavior, and psychology. And like The DryForce of Nature bristles with wit; it crackles with suspense; it radiates atmosphere. An astonishing book from an astonishing writer (A.J. Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window)

Harper’s debut, The Dry, was The Sunday Times crime novel of 2017 and won the CWA Gold Dagger award. That makes this second outing from the Australian a very hot ticket indeed(Sunday Times, Books of 2018)

The Dry was one of the standout crime debuts of 2017; Australian author Harper follows it with a story of women hiking in the bush – five go out, but only four come back (Guardian, Books of 2018)

Once again, Harper manages to touch on something mythic in the Australian experience of the land…From Frederic McCubbin’s mournful painting…Lost, to Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock…getting lost in the bush was for a while every non-Indigenous Australian’s worst nightmare. Force of Nature plays on this fear and then some. Ratcheting up the sense of threat is the shade of a notorious serial killer lurking in the undergrowth (Sydney Morning Herald)

Force of Nature proves Jane Harper, author of The Dry, is no one-hit wonder. Its premise is instantly gripping (Herald Sun (Melbourne))

As thick with menace as the bush that seems to swallow the difficult Alice…Force of Nature cuts between past and present, corporate and domestic, and cements its author as one of Australia’s boldest thriller writers (Australian Women’s Weekly)

The narrative is finely constructed, with perfectly measured pace and suspense. So much so that it reminded me of another master of form, Liane Moriarty…Harper has also harnessed what captivates the Australian psyche – the landscape. The Dry is set in a small country town in drought, and this time she takes us into the bush. There are echoes of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Lord of the Flies as any appearance of civility slips away and the women lose direction in a hostile landscape. So does Harper’s new book live up to the first? I was thrilled to find that it does. The novel delivers and Harper writes like a dream (The Saturday Paper, Australia)

The best in compulsive literary crime, from the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, The Dry.

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I had not read Harper’s first acclaimed novel The Dry when I read her second novel (although I had acquired it after reading many good reviews of it) and although it seems that most people who have reviewed it so far have read the first, I can confirm that it can be read independently and you will not feel that you are missing a fundamental part of the story. Yes, there are brief allusions to events that you suspect might refer to the first novel, but the case itself is self-contained. I must confess I felt curious about the first novel after reading this one, in part because of the main character, but also in part because of the comments by the reviewers.

If you have read the first novel, you will know that the setting is Australia. This time, rather than a draught and dry landscape, the case Aaron Falk gets involved in takes place in a wet and cold area at that time of the year, the Giralong Ranges. Two teams from the same legal firm (one male and one female) have gone for a weekend hiking, as part of a teambuilding exercise. The two teams take different routes and on Sunday, when they are all supposed to meet, one of the women does not turn up. Aaron Falk, who is a federal investigator dealing with financial crimes, and his partner, Carmen Cooper, knew the woman who had gone missing, Alice Russell, because she was helping them (not without a certain degree of pressure/coercion) investigate the firm. At first, they wonder if her disappearance might have something to do with her undercover activities, but there are many mysteries, lies, and intrigues at play, the red herrings abound, and emotions run high.

The story is told in the third person, but each chapter is divided into two time frames, one following the actual investigation of Alice’s disappearance, from Falk’s point of view, and the other following, in chronological order, the events during the hiking trip, from the alternate points of view of the women who accompanied Alice (and, very briefly, of Alice herself).  It is an interesting technique, as it makes us compare the conjectures of the investigating team, with the reality, and it provides us an opportunity to learn more about the characters from their own perspective. The author excels at her descriptions of the landscape, the weather, and the psychological state of the women (and of the male investigator). Although the story develops slowly and I would not call it fast-paced, it has twists and turns, and enough clues to keep us hooked and intrigued. Also, although understated and not emotionally open, we are also intrigued by how personally challenging this case is for Falk, who carries his father’s rucksack and his legacy with him and learns a lot more than the expected about family relationships throughout the book.

None of the characters (except, perhaps Falk and Cooper, and maybe the girls) are particularly lovable or even likable but we get to understand their motivations and why they do what they do. I know there are readers who prefer books where there are characters we should clearly like or dislike, but life is a bit more complex than that, and this novel abounds in morally ambiguous characters that not intentionally all good or bad. (Personally, I have a soft spot for Beth, one of the twin sisters). Alice is perhaps one of the least likable of all the characters, although she, like the rest, has redeeming qualities. It is also true that she is a character we don’t get much of an insight into, as she does not get a voice, and we mostly reconstruct her personality and character based on other people’s judgements and takes on her. I noticed that the characters seem to be paired-up (there are two twin sisters, that at first seem to be complete opposites but we learn there are more similarities in their life-experiences than they realise; there are two childhood friends whose lives and even daughters seem to follow parallel paths; the CEO of the company has difficulties with his son, and there are other father-son relationships highlighted throughout the novel, including that of Falk with his father, and also that of a serial killer who was infamous for his murders in the area and his son) and family relations are at the heart of the story.

For some reason this novel made me think of the label “domestic noir”, because although most of the story develops outdoors, it is also about families, strange relationships, and twists and turns. It also reminded me of Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty that I reviewed a long while back (you can check my review here), not only because the author is also Australian, but because the mystery at the heart of the book (that in that case, we don’t discover until quite late) shakes and transforms deeply the lives of people who seemed to be getting on perfectly well, undisturbed in their domestic lives until they realise it was all a very thin veneer of normality. (After writing the review I noticed that one of the editorial reviews pointed at that too. Great minds…) Although it is true that the women get into survival mode when things get difficult, the comparison to Lord of the Flies is too extreme, in my opinion, as the characters’ motivations go beyond pure survival and are more complex and nuanced even when things get extremely ugly.

I enjoyed the book. Harper writes very well and can truly flesh out situations and landscapes, making us feel as if we were there with the protagonists. I agree with the reviewers who query some of the details of the story (yes, the organisation of the adventure does not seem to be very well-planned, for example), and I felt that some of the red-herrings and clues suggested more interesting directions than those finally explored (the previous murders committed there keep being hinted at but are not fully explained), and some I feel are possibly left open. The ending… Well, let’s say the resolution of the case itself is not a huge surprise, but I enjoyed the overall ending.

And after reading some of the reviews and the comments about Harper’s first novel, I have started reading it, so I’ll let you know what I think.

An author who’s made a deserved great impression and a mystery for those who prefer a slower pace and great writing, rather than a thrill a minute. Definitely recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Little, Brown Books Group and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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