Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.
I love a good suspense novel, and those three sentences are maybe some of the most attention-grabbing I’ve read. Anne Bogel recommended this book on her podcast, and when I read the description, it immediately landed on my library holds list.
The Dry, Jane Harper’s debut novel, focuses on Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his investigation into the triple murder that left his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler, and his family dead. After receiving a note from Luke’s father, Falk decides to attend the funeral, and that’s when things start getting even more interesting. At first glance, it appears to be a murder/suicide orchestrated by Luke himself, precipitated by the drought affecting the small farming community, including Luke’s farm. As Falk and a local police officer probe further into the situation, they soon discover that the case may not be as straightforward as everyone thought. Falk must find out whether or not Luke really did kill his family, before the small town community decides that he’s done enough investigating.
This is how suspense should be done. I was hooked from the prologue and would have read straight through to the end if my family didn’t need things like food and attention. The characters, especially Aaron Falk, are so well-written, which can be hard to find in suspense novels. I felt like I really knew and trusted Falk, and was absolutely rooting for him to solve the mystery. The setting is, truly, a character in itself. It isn’t just Australia in a drought, it is small-town Australia in a drought. If you have ever lived in a small town, you know that it can be a weird bubble of a place to live. If you haven’t ever lived in a small town, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it’s like while reading this book. Harper has created a pressure cooker of a community that is struggling to find a way to let off steam.
Adding to the tension is the side story that Harper weaves into the main narrative. Twenty years earlier, Falk was accused of murder, and he and his dad were run out of town. Luke was the only person who knew the truth. The two stories come together as Falk uncovers more mysteries from the past.
This is a brilliant debut novel from Jane Harper. She has a second Aaron Falk novel in the works (Force of Nature, out February 6, 2018), and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
(If you’re still wondering if you should read The Dry, let me just say that it won an award before it was even published. Not every novelist can make that claim!)