For this week’s Throwback Thursday I’m looking back at The Dry, a book I’ve recently reread to hopefully get my reading mojo back. Published in 2017, The Dry was Jane Harper’s debut novel.
The small town of Kiewarra is in the deadly grip of a drought. It hasn’t rained for two years and the community is under extreme pressure, becoming ever more scared and desperate, the oppressive heat wearing them down. Then Karen Hadler, and her young son, Billy, are found brutally murdered. Luke Hadler, dead in his truck, a suspected murder/suicide. In response to a note from Gerry Hadler, Luke’s father, ‘Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral,’ Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk arrives back in Kiewarra after an absence of twenty years.
Falk is determined not to stay much longer than a day and while most of the townsfolk are less than happy to see him, there are several who are glad he’s there. The old suspicions surrounding Falk resurface and once again he is the focus of hostility and threats. His plans take an unexpected turn, however, after speaking to the new local policeman, Sergeant Greg Raco, and Falk finds himself reluctantly staying in Kiewarra much longer than he anticipated.
The book had been sitting on my shelf for several weeks. It was definitely worth the wait and only took the shocking prologue to grab my attention. The author has captured the mood and atmosphere perfectly, with vivid imagery. It’s all but tangible. The isolation of Kiewarra, coupled with the devastation and oppressiveness of the heat wave and the way it affects the small community. Even the school children’s drawings reflect the general feeling of disaster – ‘every face had a crayon mouth turned downward’ and a ‘painting of a cow with angel wings’
The main mystery is interspersed with an older one brought to life with flashbacks, giving a good insight into past events, from when Luke and Aaron were teenagers. The rumours and speculation surrounding the death of one of their friends were the cause of Aaron and his father basically being run out of town.
The past and present blend seamlessly in the measured pace of the narrative. It’s a character driven story which unfolds believably, with the emotions and human frailties easily imagined in such a dire situation and rural setting, where there is no escape. Aaron Falk especially is a well fleshed out, sympathetic protagonist and the characterisations in general are very good and have an authentic feel.
Secrets, discoveries and lies are drip fed slowly as the dynamics of a small, insular town under threat play out. The compelling story is well structured with evocative writing, false leads and surprise reveals. I didn’t guess either outcome. An excellent debut novel. I’ll definitely be picking up Jane Harper’s next book, Force of Nature.
About the Book
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.