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The Dry

by Jane Harper

The Dry by Jane Harper X
The Dry by Jane Harper
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Claire McAlpine

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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

certainly lives up to the hype
The Dry is the first book in the Aaron Falk series by award-winning Australian journalist and author, Jane Harper. After twenty years away, AFP agent Aaron Falk returns to drought-stricken rural Victoria for the funeral of his one-time best friend, Luke Hadler. All of Kiewarra is there to bury Luke, Karen and little Billy, but few of them are glad to see Falk.

Falk’s field is financial crimes, so Luke’s mother asks him to look into a possible alternative to the foregone conclusion of murder-suicide that seems to have been reached by the detectives from Clyde. And neither is Kiewarra’s own cop, Sergeant Greg Raco, entirely convinced by this explanation. There are enough discrepancies in the facts that Falk decides to stay a few days, to see if he can cast light on this awful tragedy. He owes Luke’s memory and his parents at least that much.

But Falk and his father left Kiewarra under a cloud when, at sixteen, his dear friend Ellie Deacon drowned in the Kiewarra River. While no one was ever charged, Falk had his suspicions then about who was responsible: are they affecting his impartiality now? Are there reasons to think the crimes are related?

During his informal investigation, Falk connects with townsfolk, reconnects with old friends and old enemies, and it is soon apparent that the ill will from his teens has been comprehensively reawakened.

Against the backdrop of a struggling country town, Harper gives the reader twin mysteries: a cold case and one still dominating the town’s consciousness. Multiple narrators give a variety of perspectives, eventually revealing the truth about both these wretched events. Harper’s characters are believably flawed: there are no saints here, and many of them harbour secrets. Falk’s loyalty to his friends is tinged with doubt and suspicion.

Harper’s Kiewarra easily evokes the typical country town with its small mindedness, its secrets, its rumour mill and the lightning spread of gossip, and a lack of the anonymity often felt in cities. This is a tale that is fast-paced, with an exciting climax and twists and red herrings that will keep even the most astute reader guessing until the final chapters. Harper’s debut novel certainly lives up to the hype, so interest in Aaron Falk’s second outing, Force of Nature, is bound to be high.
Bev C

The Dry
This debut is perfectly named. The climatic descriptions are vivid and more than just a backdrop, they are an integral part of the story.

Amid the worst drought of the century, Federal Agent Aaron Falk is summoned to Kiewarra for the funerals of Luke and Karen Hadler and their son Billy. A note Aaron received in Melbourne simply said "Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral."

Twenty years ago Falk was accused of the murder of mutual friend, Ellie Deacon.
His best friend Luke was his alibi. The alibi held, but Aaron and his father were forced to flee Kiewarra.

This return visit will open Pandora's box of secrets of the town and the people Aaron left behind.
Michael Haughton

The Dry by Jane Harper
Aaron Falk was the character that started the book in what appear to be driving to a church. There was a line that stated "he dragged his heel the whole way to Melbourne" and made a 5 hr drive go way pass that timing.

But what I wanted to say, was that the writer should use phrases that match the outcome. As "dragging one's heel" means to walk at a very slow pace and that was not what Falk was doing, In fact he was driving. So what should have been said is "he drove at a very slow pace".

As I glanced to the end of the first chapter. I must say the writer took keen knowledge at every step and movement of all the characters that played on in a church funeral settings and I was pleased with the details of their movement and body language.

I congratulate the writer on her carefully brave and written strategy. She wrote without flaws in grammar describing the characters body language excellently . And that makes my rating for this book above the norm.

I could tell that Falk as a federal police that wasn't one that was good at funerals. Especially with former faces that he knew back then. He was really not that socially in conversations in these setting as he was dying to leave. The three last lines of the first chapter says it all.

However it goes without saying that every book is not without its flaws. I saw when the writer wrote in the second chapter: "Falk rest his chin on her blonde head" it should be blonde hair. So I was a little turned off with this line. But it never had much effect on my ratings.

The writer also wrote: Gretchen Schooner slipped off a pair of cheap sun glasses. I am not sure but I don't see the need to state how cheap a sun glasses is only if the writer was giving an impression on her economic status. But apart from such it was pointless to me.

Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke's steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn't tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. 

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there's more to Luke's death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns always hide a big secret. Rated 4 out of 5
Power Reviewer
Sandi W

Page turner...
A strange note left on his desk takes Federal Agent Aaron Falk back to his home town, one he left 20 years prior on a bad note. He finds that his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler, along with Luke's wife and son were murdered. The town wants to write it off as a murder/suicide due to the effects of the drought and appalling conditions the town has weathered in the last few years. The Hadlers are not so sure. Working with the one local law enforcement officer that also has questions - Aaron sets off to investigate this tragic situation. But in doing so, it brings back all the memories that Aaron has run from - and all the enemies that drove Aaron and his father out of town initially. The suicide, if it really was, of a girl that Aaron liked when he was a teenager.
I liked this book from page one. It kept me interested and wanting to turn the page. Twists and turns of all dimensions kept closing in on the truth. Good writing, well planned story, and happily just book one and the beginning of a series.
Roberta

Familiar plot line but enjoyable read
The author does a good job with a familiar plot line. Man returns to his childhood town for the funeral of a friend. Secrets from the past dog him as he is called on to help solve a present day murder. The story shifts from past to present as all is revealed. I enjoyed this book.
gb

Good, but sad
Time heals all wounds....or does it?
Power Reviewer
BeckyH

A good mystery
A tightly woven mystery that jumps back and forth from the present to the past to solve a long ago drowning and now a family murdered. Who lied and why?
Agent Aaron Falk is one of those accused of lying – then and now? Did he? Why did he come back and why does he stay where he is clearly not wanted.
The time jumps are clear by the use of an italic font for the past. The suspicions will keep you reading. Some of the characters are more fully developed than others. The plot is clear and the red herrings are plentiful. This is an enjoyable and clever book.
meganne

The Dry
Well written, capturing the atmosphere of a township in crisis in a rock-hard landscape and searing summer heat. Secretiveness is palpable. Human problems - and memories - run deeper than the drought. Characterisation is interesting and varied. Secrets and mystery are 'drip-fed' throughout. Hard to believe that the actual story is told over a couple of weeks following a funeral but reaches back over twenty years. It intrigued me that there was very little to picture about the (fictitious) town, yet evoked images arise of any number of Australian outback locations that could fit!. Stage is set for a sequel!
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