The Australian background context is the primary thing I liked as I read The Dry by Jane Harper. Not knowing much about Australia, Harper made me aware throughout the novel I was in a large, sparsely inhabited continent with rules and laws very close to the ground and pragmatic. When all the pretty disguises of civilized of life in the big city are stripped away, justice is expressed differently. Jane Harper did not tell me this in the novel; the author subtly showed the differences through the eyes of characters.
Aaron Falk had returned home for a funeral determined to spend the minimum amount of time possible. Eighteen hours sounded about right. Luke Hadler, Karen, and Billy were dead. Luke had been Falk’s friend since early youth, although he had never really known Luke’s wife Karen or son Billy. Luke was the reason Falk had left town and never returned. Luke and Falk shared a secret, one that was safe now. The most secure secrets are known to only one person.
Aaron Falk was not visiting in any official capacity. What would an investigator from a federal financial unit be able to do? Add that to the fact that no one in the town wanted this or the prior murder of Ellie Deacon investigated carefully. Most people wanted the earlier mystery left alone and closed. Days before the funeral, Falk had received a letter from Luke’s father, Gary. The note was short, but blunt, as the author directed Falk to be at the funeral. Additional information was that Gary claimed knowledge from the past. “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.” (p.13).
It was accepted in Kiewarra that Ellie Deacon had committed suicide twenty years earlier, but it was accepted reluctantly. There had been stones in her pockets that held her down in the river. She had been moody. There were relationship frictions between Luke, Aaron Falk and Ellie. At the time it was determined that Ellie had died, Aaron and Luke had alibied each other, saying they were together fishing. But it was a small town, and some residents knew the two boys had lied. If some knew, there was at least widespread suspicion that Ellie had been killed and either Luke or Aaron had done it. Because the evidence was so lacking, Aaron’s father was suspect for a time. Aaron and his father had abandoned Kiewarra soon after the murder due to harassment. Now Aaron was returning twenty years later. Residents of Kiewarra still had their suspicions about Aaron, but Luke was now dead.
Mal Deacon, the father of dead daughter Ellie, might be excused for his erratic actions and hostile social actions. An excess of alcohol daily, a dead daughter, and advanced age combined to make him a town elder no one wanted to consult. His nephew Grant had a decidedly hostile and unpleasant public personality, but that may have been because he had devoted his life to caring for Mal. Very altruistic. And someone had to inherit the ranch, soon.
This story has lots of characters and one unforgivable trope that I am willing to overlook because the 336-page novel, as more than 86% of 2027 reviewers noted, has a rating of either four or five Amazon stars. I’ll go with five because I liked the surprise ending a lot. It had more than one element to it and worked well into the story. The trope I didn’t like was the mandatory appearance of a gay couple. IMHO, it was simply not necessary and gratuitous. The inclusion did have a minimum of development, more than I am used to seeing, so I was willing to give it a pass and keep the five-star rating for this outstanding story.
The Dry is not available on Kindle Unlimited. It sells on Amazon for USD 9.99. I think the price is high, so I read it with my Scribd subscription. The five stars are an Amazon rating, and because this is not a verified purchase, I did not post this review on Amazon.