Books for Grown Ups: The Dry by Jane Harper
Wow! Jane Harper’s debut novel is a taut, well-crafted mystery novel. Set in the drought dry farming town of Kiewarra, where tensions are rising as prosperity withers away with the dying grass, Luke Hadler and his wife and son are murdered in their farmhouse. The only survivor is baby Charlotte, too young to be a witness.
Luke’s frantic parents Gerry and Barb call on Aaron Falk, Luke’s childhood friend who is now a Federal Agent living in Melbourne. Aaron, who left Kiewarra at 17 under a fog of hatred and suspicion, has been living a detached and lonely life focused on work, and dreads returning to Kiewarra after so many years. But Gerry’s unapologetic note is more threat than request when he tells Aaron “You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral.”
As the story progresses, events of the past and the investigation of Luke Hadler and his family merge and diverge. While Harper keeps the reader guessing, she avoids the Cirque du Soliel levels of misdirection with overly clever plotting and shocking motives. Instead, Harper relies on the readers own presumptions and prejudices to create confusion and misdirection, which results in a satisfying and surprising conclusion.