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Summary and book reviews of The Lost Man by Jane Harper

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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Book Summary

Two brothers meet in the remote Australian outback when the third brother is found dead, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper.

Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback.

Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet.

In an isolated belt of Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another's nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun.

Nathan, Bub and Nathan's son return to Cameron's ranch and to those left behind by his passing: his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers.

While they grieve Cameron's loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.

A powerful and brutal story of suspense set against a formidable landscape, The Lost Man confirms Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature, is one of the best new voices in writing today.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Welcome to the Reading Group Guide for The Lost Man. Please note: In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel—as well as the ending. If you have not finished reading The Lost Man, we respectfully suggest that you consider waiting before reviewing this guide.

  1. Carl Bright is shown through the novel to have been an aggressive and violent man, but his abuse was not always of a physical nature. What does the novel have to say about the power wielded by a perpetrator of domestic violence, and the long-lasting effects of that abuse?
  2. How does the secretive nature of domestic violence protect the perpetrator? How ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Lost Man.
You can see the full discussion here.


All the key characters in the novel are better off without Cameron. Do you think this justifies his death in any way?
The author does seem to paint such a hopeful ending where everyone is happier after burying Cameron and coming to terms with his death. Nothing justifies murder, but we can see why Liz did it. She was acting proactively DEFENSIVE to keep any harm ... - AlwaysSunny

For those who have also read Jane Harper's "The Dry", an interesting link is made between Liz Bright and her abusive brother, Malcolm Deacon. What could you infer from this connection?
I did not read this book, but you can bet, I plan to now. - cynthiaa

How and why does Nathan's impression of Cameron change as he gets closer to the truth.
As Nathan gets closer to the truth about what his brother was truly like - how the golden boy everyone loved was actually abusive to his wife and children, how he pressured backpackers to sleep with him and likely raped a girl when he was a teenager ... - rebeccak

How does the remote, isolated setting inform our ideas about the people who live in and around Balamara and the events that take place there? How does the setting itself impact the events of the novel?
I agree with the other posts - the setting made it hard for a number of characters to get the help they needed. The people who needed help also had a hard time communicating that to a reliable source. I also think Carl and Cameron were hard on the ... - louisee

How does the secretive nature of domestic violence protect the perpetrator? How do the ideas of fear and shame hinder victims from seeking help?
As long as abhorrent behavior like abuse is kept in the dark, the perpetrator is safe from justice and it is utterly tragic for all. I can only imagine the pain of this type of abuse, and I do think that many victims feel it is their fault - probably... - elizabethabby

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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)...continued

Full Review (765 words).

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Harper's books succeed in part because she conveys how even now, geography can be fate. Heat and empty space in her work defeat modernity, defeat logic, technology and even love, throwing us back upon our irreducible selves. By the time she reveals the (brilliantly awful) back story about Nathan's banishment from the few human comforts of Balamara—the pub, for example—the reader feels frantic for their restoration. The final pages of The Lost Man are somewhat predictable, but Harper is skillful enough, a prickly, smart, effective storyteller, that it doesn't matter. She's often cynical, but always humane. Book by book, she's creating her own vivid and complex account of the outback, and its people who live where people don't live.

People
[A] crime masterpiece. The landscape and culture of this remote Australian territory are magnificently evoked as a story of family secrets unfolds. Rarely does a puzzle so complicated fit together perfectly—you’ll be shaking your head in amazement.

Publishers Weekly
Harper's sinewy prose and flinty characters compel, but the dreary story line may cause some readers to give up before the jaw-dropping denouement.

Booklist
The atmosphere is so thick you can taste the red-clay dust, and the folklore surrounding the mysterious stockman adds an additional edge to an already dark and intense narrative. The truth is revealed in a surprising ending that reveals how far someone will go to preserve a life worth living in a place at once loathed and loved.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. The mystery of Cam's death is at the dark heart of an unfolding family drama that will leave readers reeling, and the final reveal is a heartbreaker. A twisty slow burner by an author at the top of her game.

Reader Reviews

Melissa Stone

Abuses Stronghold
Harper's stand-alone third novel is every bit as engrossing as her first two! The crime mystery is typical, but her ability to bring both characters and settings to life is anything but. I found the re occurrence of abuse throughout the novel and ...   Read More

Victoria

A Western for those who don’t read Westerns
I read this book earlier in the year when it came out in hardback. I can’t remember what caused me to be interested, but my records show I actually bought it on my Kindle. Something or someone’s review must have convinced me to try it! I really do ...   Read More

Mbeggs

Family secrets
The author took you to the Outback and introduced a family to the reader. Then slowly and intricately showed you their flaws and how they each handled their life situation. The suspense carried you to the end. Read with a tall glass of water. Well ...   Read More

Barry E. (Margate City, NJ)

Five star book
This was very different from Harper's first book which I realized received rave reviews despite my less than enthusiastic review. This book on the other hand was terrific, although I feel labeling it a mystery is not right. This in a true sense is a ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cattle Ranching in Australia

Jackaroos at a cattle station in Australia's Northern TerritoryJane Harper's The Lost Man takes place on a cattle station in the Australian Outback. Cattle stations function quite differently than American or European beef cattle ranches. Many are extremely large; the territory devoted to raising the livestock is generally hot and arid, producing little vegetation, and so an immense area of land is required to support relatively few head of cattle. There are over 100 cattle stations in Australia that are larger than the biggest American ranch. Because the acreage is so immense and the herd so spread out, rounding up the animals can take weeks. Ranch hands no longer exclusively ride horses to accomplish this, frequently relying on ATVs, dirt bikes, or even light aircraft to spot the cows.

Because of ...

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