Saturday, January 20, 2018

Assured Debut an Engrossing, Atmospheric Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Aaron Falk has zero desire to return to Kiewarra, the tiny village of his birth.  Twenty years ago, he was accused of killing a local girl there, condemned by his neighbors, and run out of town.  Now a federal police agent in Melbourne, the 36-year-old is being summoned back for the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler.  Despite the tragic circumstances (Luke killed himself after murdering his wife and young son), Aaron doesn't plan to go back.  Until he gets a message he can't ignore:  Luke lied.  You lied.  Be at the funeral.  

Ravaged by drought and despair, Kiewarra is a dying town full of the same small minds and explosive tempers Aaron remembers from two decades ago.  His presence in town only adds fuel to the fire, creating a tension so thick it smolders in the dusty air.  All Aaron wants to do is pay his respects and high-tail it back to Melbourne, but Luke's parents have another idea.  Although Aaron's specialty is financial crimes, the Hadlers implore him to look into Luke's death.  They don't believe for a minute that their son would commit such a brutal act.  Despite mounting evidence proving otherwise, Aaron can't bring himself to let the Hadlers down.  With the help of a local policeman, he starts digging.

As Aaron investigates, Kiewarra's long-buried secrets start to surface.  The closer he gets to the answers he's seeking, the more dangerous Aaron becomes to someone who wants to keep the past firmly in the past.  He was expelled from Kiewarra once; will he be silenced again—this time permanently?  Aaron must find out what really happened both in the present and in the past before it's too late.

The Dry, a debut novel by Australian author Jane Harper, has received a lot of buzz since its publication in January of last year.  And deservedly so.  It's a tense, atmospheric thriller written with such vividity that I could almost taste Kiewarra's dusty desperation.  Aaron is a sympathetic hero, brave and determined, but also understated and humble.  The mystery at the novel's center remains compelling throughout.  The identity of the killer surprised me, which always helps to make this kind of novel feel truly satisfying.  I enjoyed this assured debut and am looking forward to reading the forthcoming sequel, Force of Nature

(Readalikes:  I'm really bad at this.  I can't think of anything.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, disturbing subject matter, mild sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Dry with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

18 comments:

  1. This one sounds like one I might like. There's something in the water down in Australia because their authors are fantastic! I'm going to check this one out!

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    1. Right? I have a number of Australian authors on my auto-read list.

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  2. I loved this book. For some reason, it reminded me a bit of the Bell Elkins series - maybe because of the vivid setting. And the fact that the protagonist had bad things happen in their youth. So looking forward to the next book!

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    1. I can understand that connection and yes, I think it has a lot to do with setting. Both series are set in dying communities peopled with tough, bitter people with small minds and big tempers.

      I'm looking forward to the sequel, too. I have an e-ARC on my Kindle, just haven't gotten to it yet.

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  3. Everyone seems to love Jane Harper's books. I have this one on my list and am hoping to get to it soon. (But I think I said that last year, too.) :D

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    1. Ha ha! I say that a lot, too :) THE DRY is a pretty fast, engrossing read so it should be an easy one to cross off your list :)

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  4. I've been hearing such great things about this book. I like suspenseful books and this fits the bill. Awesome Review I like your movie rating.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. It's definitely suspenseful! I hope you enjoy it when you read it. Let me know what you think of it.

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  5. I love when the killer stays a complete mystery till the big reveal. I love being surprised.

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    1. Me, too. 'Course, I'm pretty gullible, so I don't always see the killer coming even when it's really obvious :)

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  6. This has been on my TBR though a little bit on the maybe stack for some reason. After this review I think I'm going to change that. It sounds like a great read!

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    1. It really is a good read. I enjoyed it. I hope you do, too!

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  7. This sounds like it would make a good mini-series on PBS :-)

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  8. Gah, I don't really read a lot of thrillers, which saddens me. This one sounds really good in terms of atmosphere, but I kind of want to start out with something that was a really "wow". Any recommendations? :) Awesome review!

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

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    1. Sometimes it seems like ALL I read is mystery/thrillers! Have you read THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW? It's a twisty thriller that reads really fast because of short, intense chapters. I'd call it a "wow" book. I also really liked LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sharon Bolton. It's one that kept me guessing (almost literally) until the last word.

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  9. Hmmm, this sounds like an interesting story! I'm a big fan of mystery and thriller novels (although in that genre I've primarily read YA books), but I might give this one a try. I haven't read a lot of Aussie books, and despite being online for book blogging, I completely missed the buzz for this book! Thanks for sharing!
    claire @ clairefy

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    1. Sounds like you'd probably enjoy THE DRY.

      Which YA mystery/thrillers would you recommend? I feel like there aren't very many teen books in this genre and I'd love to know of some good ones ...

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