“To look out and see not another soul between you and the horizon could be a strange and disturbing sight.” CBR10 Review 18.

UnknownThis was by no means a pleasant reading experience. But its one that I’ll remember for quite a long time.

Aaron Falk is a federal police officer in Australia, specializing in financial crimes. He comes home to the country for the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke, who apparently brutally murdered his wife and young son, and then took his shotgun to himself. Luke’s father, who knows a secret about Aaron, convinces him to stick around town for a while to investigate. Luke’s parents simply cannot accept that he would commit such a heinous crime.

Aaron hesitantly agrees. He’s not exactly welcome in this small Outback town, due to the mysterious death of his friend/almost girlfriend 20 years earlier. When her body was found, the only clue for the police was a piece paper in her pocket with Aaron’s name and the date of her disappearance on it. The town quickly turns on Aaron and his father — no matter that he’s innocent — and he hasn’t been back since.

This book is brilliantly written. The language is shockingly beautiful. The descriptions of the vast Australian countryside are amazingly evocative. Huntsman spiders, cockatoos, and cicadas are all supporting characters, as is the utter silence of the empty land surrounding the small town of Kiewarra. Not a word seems wasted.

The two mysteries — while uncomfortable to read about — kept me guessing until the end.  I honestly had no idea what would happen until it did. And I both loved and hated that. I had grown attached to most of the characters (except for Ellie’s dad and cousin, who were blatantly terrible) and didn’t want any of them to be capable of such a brutal action.

I loved how Harper included events from the past by adding chunks of text in italics, it made it easy to differentiate between the mystery of Ellie and that of Luke and his family.

Jane Harper clearly loves Australia. The descriptions of the farmlands, the drought, the tight rural community, and the absolute and immediate danger of fire were so lifelike, I could picture everything on the page clearly in my mind. Her writing reminded me a lot of Ian Rankin’s Rebus mysteries (where Edinburgh is more or less a character on its own) and James Ellroy’s LA books, which really couldn’t take place anywhere else but Los Angeles.

I had no idea that this was the first book in a series about Aaron Falk. The second book recently came out, so I’ll have to make sure to pick it up and add it to the very top of my TBR pile.

PS: I just saw that Reese Witherspoon (the new Oprah!) has optioned the film rights to The Dry for her production company. I hope they decide to keep it in rural Australia, as I think the story would lose a lot of its identity if it were moved to drought-ridden California.


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