Set against the drought-ravaged backdrop of the town of Kiewarra, The Dry (Little Brown, released January 12th) is an involving and undulating crime novel, full of hard-to-fathom characters, plot twists, and unexpected revelations. The chorus of praise for Jane Harper's debut novel has been close to deafening, and I too have some plaudits to add to the pile; this is a clever, interesting book which had me gripped throughout.
Initially the plot is very much detective novel 101, with detective Aaron Falk, the prodigal son of the town, returning from banishment to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. In a town full of secrets and discord, Luke's suicide and the deaths of his wife and son have shattered the community, and the tensions already present in Kiewarra as the whole town struggles in the bitter heat of the drought bubble up to boiling point as the murder and the investigation uncovers intrigues, secrets, and lies. Aaron Falk finds himself drawn to the investigation, and in trying to uncover what happened to his friend and his family, Falk discovers some secrets which mean Kiewarra, and he, will never be the same again.
This is a book about small towns and the secrets which bind them, the ways that people try to control those around them, and the thousand of tiny cruelties that unfold as the years roll by in a small town where rumours can make or break you. Falk returns after two decades to the town that cast him out, and as the story unfolds we learn both what happened to the Hadler family, and what happened in Aaron's past, too. The pacing of the story is exquisite and so assured - the story is relentless, but also evocative. Harper's painting of the town and its surroundings, arid and full of horrors, both seen and yet-to-be-revealed, is breathtaking.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Dry and feel relieved that the hype was entirely justified - this is a fantastic, beautifully written and plotted cry novel.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.