Ready to burn

A review of The Dry by Jane Harper

In her debut novel Jane Harper takes the reader into drought-stricken Kiewarra, a rural town in Victoria, Australia whose farmers and townspeople are barely hanging on after years with little rain.

Aaron Falk, a federal police investigator, returns to Kiewarra for the funerals of his childhood best friend, Luke, and Luke's wife and young son. The town is not only grieving but in shock at the deaths, as it appears Luke, outof apparent desperation brought on by the drought, killed his wife and son (though strangely not his infant daughter) and then himself. The horrific acts have rocked the town and Luke's parents can't bring themselves to believe that Luke could have done such a thing. And considering Luke once provided Aaron with an alibi for a crime he was once suspected of, his father calls in the favor and asks that Aaron investigate. Though Aaron is initially reluctant, and sure that he'll get nowhere, he finds an ally in the local police chief who thinks there was something more to the crimes. Together the two men begin to piece things together, while unearthing secrets, old and new, along the way.

The desperation felt by so many of the characters runs like a palpable beat through the book. Harper draws the suspense and tension well, only ocassionally tripped up by her use of flashbacks. I predict that she is going to become an author to watch for many mystery readers after this stellar debut.