Book Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Contemporary
Date Read: 01/16/17
Pub Date (US): 01/10/17
“Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…”
When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.
And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…
I know it’s early days, but I have a feeling this will be a top read of 2017 for me; I’ll go as far as saying if I had read it last year it would have been in my top 2016 reads. The writing is excellent, the pacing was quick with fully fleshed characters, and the ending was satisfying without being too cut and dry. Half the fun of this story is, even if you guess at the who, you probably won’t guess the why until it’s revealed. This was a perfect example of a book being extremely dark and terrifying without being overly graphic for the shock value.
“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.”
Your attention; I have it, right? Those are powerful opening lines, and when placed within the full fledged prologue you have one of the most intriguing and gripping introductions to a book I have ever read. Please don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a break neck thriller that you rush to read in one sitting; it’s more the slow, delicate sipping of a fine wine that you tend to gradually chug more quickly as you reach the bottom of the bottle. If someone asked me how I felt a police procedural should be written and what details should be included I would simply hand them a copy of this book and tell them to read it. I feel privileged to have found such a golden story to catalogue in my mind so early in the year; the complex web of deceit and lies in this farmland of Australia completely captivated me to the point I actually found myself trying to piece together the various mysteries while doing other daily activities.
While the writing was excellent and the mysteries were well done, what placed this book in 5 star land for me was the depth and beauty given to the characters. I was so engrossed in these people that I actually felt present for each conversation; the descriptions of the setting were so incredible that I thought I would break out into a sweat at any moment from the drought I was mentally present for. I honestly can’t think of a single complaint of what I would change about this book. While you may guess correctly on the “whodunnit” in both present day and past mysteries (due to a limited pool of characters to choose from) you likely won’t guess why. I had missed a tiny clue, just as our characters did, which caused me to go down the wrong path and find myself just as shocked as the police officers. I adored the way the author chose to slowly unravel the plot and how she really ramped up the tension and action near the end where I felt my heart about to beat out of my chest. I’m attaching a footnote regarding the triggers in this book, so feel free to browse it at the end of this review if it’s a concern for you.
As I was browsing on Goodreads, I noticed this is set to be the first installment in a series featuring our main character Falk. I’m really torn on this, as I felt the ending was perfect as it was. I’m one of the few who doesn’t like everything neat and tidy, and while The Dry gave us plenty of closure, it left a few things open which I felt gave the book that final umpf of power to shine above the rest. I’m a little worried that a series will continue to focus on beating that particular “openness” to death to the point nothing is left vague. On the other hand, I’m dying for more Aaron Falk! I’d love to see him handling more cases and I would really love to see a return of many other characters like Raco and Gretchen, but also some minor ones like Jamie and the doctor. Rambling now, but needless to say highly HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Please put this on your radar folks if you haven’t yet. If you enjoy an excellent mystery that is a police procedural not heavy on the mundane details, this is for you. Incredibly well done and I’m absolutely FLOORED that this is a debut novel. I believe we’ll be seeing much more of Harper to come.
Thanks Lisa Jordan for sending me your personal copy last year. She mailed it all the way from Australia and it’s been a blast discussing the creepy crawlies (read monsters) that live (read prowl) in the area there. You all are brave souls!
*Trigger warning- if you’ve read the plot summary then you know the premise is a father shooting his family and then himself-the mystery is whether he truly was the guilty party or if someone else was and framed it to appear that way. While the author did a fantastic job of writing with respect and caution on such a disturbing subject, there is brief discussion of the shooting of the young son that may be disturbing for some readers. Overall, the story isn’t graphic and the violence is mainly implied.