The Dry by Jane Harper

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Jane Harper’s first novel is a police procedural set in rural Australia a few hundred miles west of Melbourne in an area that had been beset by a drought of several years duration. The main character is Aaron Falk, returned to the town after 20 years absence for the funerals of his high school friend Luke, his wife, and son. Aaron and his father had moved to Melbourne when he was a teenager under a cloud. Aaron had become a policeman and lately had specialized in white collar financial crime.┬áThe awful murders of the family had reawakened the town’s anger and suspicions about the death of a teenage girl who was a friend of Aaron and Luke that had occurred 20 years before.

I found the plot to be engaging and I didn’t guess the ending in advance. One unusual aspect of the storytelling was that interspersed with the investigation of the murders were short flashbacks to the events of Luke and Aaron’s teenage years. Certain facts not uncovered by the investigation were revealed by the flashbacks.

The setting was appropriately grim and well-described. Life in rural Australia during an extended drought is pretty unpleasant. There were two particularly horrific characters who upon reflection were overdrawn. The teenage boys, on the other hand, were done well, I thought, their appeal and shortcomings in balance.

Jane Harper has written three other books, one of which also features Aaron Falk. The Wikipedia page describes her books as “thrillers.” While using the term “police procedural” may seem dismissive, it’s more accurate in this case than thriller. While I didn’t know who the guilty party was, I knew the deal: ┬ácorpses at the beginning of the book and an arrest at the end.

Jane Harper, The Dry, Flatiron Books, 2017, 336 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the public library.

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