Excerpt from The Lost Man by Jane Harper, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lost Man

by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane Harper X
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2019, 368 pages

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1

Nathan Bright could see nothing, and then everything all at once.

He had crested the rise, gripping the steering wheel as the off-road terrain tried to snatch control from his hands, and suddenly it was all there in front of him. Visible, but still miles away, giving him too many minutes to absorb the scene as it loomed larger. He glanced over at the passenger seat.

"Don't look," he was tempted to say, but didn't bother. There was no point. The sight dragged the gaze.

Still, he stopped the car farther from the fence than he needed to. He pulled on the handbrake, leaving the engine and the air conditioner running. Both protested the Queensland December heat with discordant squeals.

"Stay in the car," he said.

"But—"

Nathan slammed the door before he heard the rest. He walked to the fence line, pulled the top wires apart, and climbed through from his side to his brothers'.

A four-wheel drive was parked near the stockman's grave, its own engine still running and its air conditioner also spinning full pelt, no doubt. Nathan cleared the fence as the driver's door opened and his youngest brother stepped out.

"G'day," Bub called, when Nathan was close enough to hear.

"G'day."

They met by the headstone. Nathan knew he would have to look down at some point. He delayed the moment by opening his mouth.

"When did you—" He heard movement behind him and pointed. "Oi! Stay in the bloody car!" He had to shout to cover the distance, and it came out more harshly than he'd intended. He tried again. "Stay in the car."

Not much better, but at least his son listened.

"I forgot you had Xander with you," Bub said.

"Yeah." Nathan waited until the car door clicked shut. He could see Xander's outline through the windshield, at sixteen more man than boy these days. He turned back to his brother. The one standing in front of him, at least. Their third sibling, middle-born Cameron Bright, lay at their feet at the base of the headstone. He had been covered, thank God, by a faded tarp.

Nathan tried again. "How long have you been here?"

Bub thought for a moment, the way he often did before answering. His eyes were slightly hooded under the brim of his hat, and his words fell a fraction of a beat slower than average speaking pace. "Since last night, just before dark."

"Uncle Harry's not coming?"

Another beat, then a shake of the head.

"Where is he? Back home with Mum?"

"And Ilse and the girls," Bub said. "He offered, but I said you were on your way."

"Probably better someone's with Mum. You have any trouble?" Nathan finally looked at the bundle at his feet. Something like that would draw out the scavengers.

"You mean dingoes?"

"Yeah, mate." Of course. What else? There wasn't a huge amount of choice out there.

"Had to take a couple of shots." Bub scratched his collarbone, and Nathan could see the edge of the western star of his Southern Cross tattoo. "But it was okay."

"Good. All right." Nathan recognized the familiar frustration that came with talking to Bub. He wished Cameron were there to smooth the waters, and felt a sudden sharp jab of realization under his ribs. He made himself take a deep breath, the air hot in his throat and lungs. This was difficult for everyone.

Bub's eyes were red, and his face unshaven and heavy with shock, as was Nathan's own, he imagined. They looked a bit, but not a lot, alike. The sibling relationship was clearer with Cameron in the middle, bridging the gap in more ways than one. Bub looked tired and, as always these days, older than Nathan remembered. With twelve years between them, Nathan still found himself faintly surprised to see his brother edging into his thirties, rather than still in nappies.

Nathan crouched beside the tarp. It was weather-bleached and had been tucked tight in places, like a bedsheet.

Excerpted from The Lost Man by Jane Harper. Copyright © 2019 by Jane Harper. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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