BookBrowse Reviews The Lost Man by Jane Harper

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The Lost Man

by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane Harper X
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 320 pages
    Dec 2019, 368 pages


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Two estranged brothers come together to investigate the death of a third brother on an Australian cattle ranch in this slow burn thriller from Jane Harper.

36 out of 37 First Impression reviewers gave Jane Harper's third novel, The Last Man, either four or five stars, for an overall rating of 4.7.

What it's about:
Jane Harper's latest book, The Lost Man, is a fantastic family drama/mystery that explores the consequences of both taking action and failing to do so. In the aftermath of the seeming suicide of Cameron Bright in a desolate part of the Australian Outback, his family must come to terms with his death and with what may have prompted it. Told from the point of view of Nathan, Cameron's older brother, the story slowly unfolds as Harper interweaves past and present and reveals dark family secrets (Terri O). Nathan and Cameron trade places as protagonist and antagonist throughout the book, posing the question: Which of the brothers was really lost? (Joan B).

At the core of the novel is the question of how a person's family history may affect their actions later in life:
The plot delves into how our childhoods define our family situations in the present (Mary O). The generational effects of living in a dysfunctional family and other events of the past influence how each character reacts to Cameron's death (Shirley T). I was reminded that we all carry our pasts with us, and that some are more successful in moving forward than others (Gina T).

Many reviewers mentioned Harper's writing skill:
The author has a talent for describing people and locations in such a way that one gets inside the heads of her flawed, and so very human characters (Sue P). They're very well developed, as is the plot. The sense of place is palpable, and the resolution, when it finally comes, is satisfying and believable (Terri O). Harper really deserves credit for building suspense. Atmospheric, anxious, ghostly, foreboding and fulfilling…this story checks a lot of boxes (Linda H).

The Lost Man compared favorably to Harper's previous books:
I thought The Lost Man was a wonderful book and enjoyed it even more than Jane Harper's previous novels featuring Aaron Falk (Randi H). Although I was not a big fan of The Dry, I chose this based on the fact that it was a standalone and had some great advance buzz. To my mind, this book is MUCH better than her debut novel, with a greater emphasis on the characters, and less on the detective work (Jill S). Harper is a great storyteller, and I enjoyed her other two books, but somehow this one resonated more with me (Linda S). This was very different from Harper's first book, which I realized received rave reviews despite my less than enthusiastic opinion of it. This book on the other hand was terrific (Barry E).

As with Harper's previous works, the action is set in the Australian Outback:
Harper's images of the dry, vast Outback will leave you thirsty! (Diane D). She does an amazing job of describing the rugged—almost alien—terrain, as well as its impact on the people who live there (Deborah C). The lonely, desolate landscape mirrors the characters' lives and actions perfectly (Nikki M). The Australian Outback becomes a character itself; the descriptions of the environment bring an extra layer of bleakness and urgency to the story that keeps the pages turning faster and faster (Betsy H).

A few of our readers found the pacing problematic:
I thought this was a rather slow-moving mystery. I got impatient with trying to figure out what the crime was really about (Sara P). I felt like I was slogging through the mud for the first 50 pages (Richard N).

Most, however, thought it was a fast read:
Like Harper's first two books, The Lost Man seizes the reader's interest and doesn't let up until the final page (Sheryl M). I read this in one sitting, forgoing dinner and sleep to find out what secrets were hidden in this family (Elizabeth S). A page-turner that I did not want to put down! (Mary O). I think this book will end up being one of my year's favorites (Frances N).

The Lost Man is recommended by our First Impressions Reviewers to a wide audience:
Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian Outback make it easy to give this book a 5-star endorsement (Norman G). I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a suspenseful tale, well-told (Linda S). I thoroughly enjoyed it and would suggest it to anyone who enjoys layered family dramas and slow-burning mysteries (Terri O). It would be a great basis for a stimulating book club discussion (Joan B). I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait to see what she does next! (Meara C).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2019, and has been updated for the January 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Cattle Ranching in Australia

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