Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'The Dry' by Jane Harper

Kiewarra is a hot and arid Australian town that is in the grip of a calamitous drought. Stores have closed and farmers are struggling to stay afloat. In Jane Harper's "The Dry," thirty-six year old Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who was raised in Kiewarra but now lives and works in Melbourne, returns to attend the funeral of a childhood friend, Luke Handler. Luke was found shot to death in his truck, while his wife and child were gunned down in their home.

At the request of Luke's bereaved parents, Aaron agrees to take a short leave and lend a hand to the investigating officer, Sergeant Greg Raco. Before long, Falk suspects that practically everyone he meets is hiding something. Equally disconcerting is the chilly reception Aaron receives from the townspeople because of the still unexplained drowning death of his former friend, sixteen-year old Eleanor Deacon, twenty years earlier.

Harper inserts flashbacks into the narrative that, for a while, raise more questions than they answer. The author's dialogue and character development (except for a one-dimensional bully straight out of central casting) are impressive. Harper depicts Luke as a charismatic but occasionally selfish and thoughtless individual. Aaron, who is intelligent and eager to help, resents the fact that some of Kiewarra's citizens continue to shun and harass him. At least the attractive Gretchen Schoner, a single mother with a five-year-old son, remembers Aaron fondly and seems interested in getting reacquainted. "The Dry" is intense and suspenseful, and the author effectively captures the misery, hopelessness, and anger of Kiewarra's frustrated residents. Although a few of Harper's subplots are contrived and resolved implausibly, this moody and intriguing novel is absorbing enough to pique our interest and keep us invested in the outcome.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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