I love nothing more than discovering a new author and this Christmas I received such a gift.
Jane Harper moved to Australia when she was 8 and after returning to England in her teens, studied english and history which led her to a career in journalism. She returned to Australia in 2008 where she continued to work as a print journalist before writing her debut novel The Dry in 2016. She followed that up with Force of Nature in 2017, The Lost Man in 2018 and The Survivors in 2020.
I haven’t yet read Harper’s latest but am eagerly awaiting its 2021 release. Her novels can be read as stand-alones, which I appreciate. Even though the first two books feature the same main character, Aaron Falk, it isn’t necessary to read the first one to be able to connect to his role in the second.
Harper’s descriptions of the Australian landscape and weather are visceral. In The Dry and The Lost Man, I could almost feel the sun burning my skin as she portrayed the environment as beautiful yet savage and unrelenting. Her characters have learned how to respect the climate while learning to adapt their lives to this harsh terrain. Harper brings her characters to life with ease and it is easy, as the observer, to connect with the people who populate her stories.
The Dry tells the story of Aaron Falk, an agent with the financial crimes unit, who returns to his hometown of Kiewarra to attend the funeral of an old friend, Luke Hadley, who has seemingly taken his own life after murdering his wife and son. Falk has misgivings about the position the town and the State Police have taken about the tragedy, and works with a local police officer to try to uncover the truth. In doing so, Falk must face the hatred of many of the town’s people who believe that he murdered his teenage girlfriend years earlier and ran from town to escape justice.
Force of Nature sees the return of Aaron Falk. In this story Falk and his partner Carmen set out to discover the whereabouts of a woman, Alice Russell, who was providing insider information on a money laundering case they were investigating. Alice has disappeared during a four day corporate retreat put on by her employer Bailey Tennants, the company that is being investigated by the financial crimes unit. Searchers, including the two detectives, must face multiple obstacles including the Giralang Range, a rugged, wild and unforgiving Australian bushland.
The Lost Man is set in the Queensland outback in north-eastern Australia. A family man and successful rancher, Cameron Bright, heads out to do work on his immense property and ends up dead. His brothers are summoned to the remote site, the Stockman’s Grave, where Cameron has been discovered. While it appears to be death by dehydration, the brothers have questions as to what brought Cameron to this location and what was he doing so far from his vehicle. Being experienced outbackers, all three brothers are aware of the dangers of the intense heat and sun exposure in this part of the country. Questions abound back at the ranch where Cameron’s wife, children, mother and employees face the material truth of his death and try to find answers to some of the puzzles that appear and in doing so, crack open old wounds and buried lies.
Jane Harper is an excellent storyteller and I, for those readers who enjoy the crime/mystery genre, would heartily recommend they check out this author.
— Nancy C.