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A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke's death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 31, 2016

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About the author

Jane Harper

18 books11.1k followers
Jane Harper is the international bestselling author of The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man.
Jane is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, and has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with The Dry in production as a major motion picture starring Eric Bana.
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,843 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,387 reviews77.2k followers
February 6, 2019
I know it's early days, but I have a feeling this will be a top read of 2017 for me; I'll go as far as saying if I had read it last year it would have been in my top 2016 reads. The writing is excellent, the pacing was quick with fully fleshed characters, and the ending was satisfying without being too cut and dry. Half the fun of this story is, even if you guess at the who, you probably won't guess the why until it's revealed. This was a perfect example of a book being extremely dark and terrifying without being overly graphic for the shock value.

"It wasn't as though the farm hadn't seen death before, and the blowflies didn't discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse."

Your attention; I have it, right? Those are powerful opening lines, and when placed within the full fledged prologue you have one of the most intriguing and gripping introductions to a book I have ever read. Please don't misunderstand, this isn't a break neck thriller that you rush to read in one sitting; it's more the slow, delicate sipping of a fine wine that you tend to gradually chug more quickly as you reach the bottom of the bottle. If someone asked me how I felt a police procedural should be written and what details should be included I would simply hand them a copy of this book and tell them to read it. I feel privileged to have found such a golden story to catalogue in my mind so early in the year; the complex web of deceit and lies in this farmland of Australia completely captivated me to the point I actually found myself trying to piece together the various mysteries while doing other daily activities.

While the writing was excellent and the mysteries were well done, what placed this book in 5 star land for me was the depth and beauty given to the characters. I was so engrossed in these people that I actually felt present for each conversation; the descriptions of the setting were so incredible that I thought I would break out into a sweat at any moment from the drought I was mentally present for. I honestly can't think of a single complaint of what I would change about this book. While you may guess correctly on the "whodunnit" in both present day and past mysteries (due to a limited pool of characters to choose from) you likely won't guess why. I had missed a tiny clue, just as our characters did, which caused me to go down the wrong path and find myself just as shocked as the police officers. I adored the way the author chose to slowly unravel the plot and how she really ramped up the tension and action near the end where I felt my heart about to beat out of my chest. I'm attaching a footnote regarding the triggers in this book, so feel free to browse it at the end of this review if it's a concern for you.

As I was browsing on Goodreads, I noticed this is set to be the first installment in a series featuring our main character Falk. I'm really torn on this, as I felt the ending was perfect as it was. I'm one of the few who doesn't like everything neat and tidy, and while The Dry gave us plenty of closure, it left a few things open which I felt gave the book that final umpf of power to shine above the rest. I'm a little worried that a series will continue to focus on beating that particular "openness" to death to the point nothing is left vague. On the other hand, I'm dying for more Aaron Falk! I'd love to see him handling more cases and I would really love to see a return of many other characters like Raco and Gretchen, but also some minor ones like Jamie and the doctor. Rambling now, but needless to say highly HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Please put this on your radar folks if you haven't yet. If you enjoy an excellent mystery that is a police procedural not heavy on the mundane details, this is for you. Incredibly well done and I'm absolutely FLOORED that this is a debut novel. I believe we'll be seeing much more of Harper to come.

Thanks Lisa Jordan for sending me your personal copy last year. She mailed it all the way from Australia and it's been a blast discussing the creepy crawlies (read monsters) that live (read prowl) in the area there. You all are brave souls!

*Trigger warning- if you've read the plot summary then you know the premise is a father shooting his family and then himself-the mystery is whether he truly was the guilty party or if someone else was and framed it to appear that way. While the author did a fantastic job of writing with respect and caution on such a disturbing subject, there is brief discussion of the shooting of the young son that may be disturbing for some readers. Overall, the story isn't graphic and the violence is mainly implied.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
January 11, 2018
Luke Hadler may have had a light on waiting for him when he came home, but something else from this wretched, desperate community had seeped through that front door and into his home. And it had been rotten and thick and black enough to extinguish that light forever.

The Dry actually makes me feel vindicated in my rating and review of Ritter's Bonfire last year. I got some criticisms that I was being too harsh toward a debut author; that a lot of thrillers follow a familiar format but that doesn't make them bad. Then, in swoops Harper here, a debut novelist, writing a mystery/thriller story whose foundations are very similar to Bonfire (and other works in the genre) and yet it is utterly gripping.

You know how the bare bones of these stories go. The protagonist is a small-towner who leaves and becomes a cop (lawyer, P.I., etc.) in the big city, then returns to his/her hometown to figure out some unfinished business from the past and solve a new crime. They, of course, get caught up in the small town politics and tensions.

Bonfire tried on this premise - unsuccessfully, in my opinion. Flynn did something very similar in Sharp Objects. The whole notion of "genre" generally relies on authors playing by a certain set of rules. Whether these recycled narratives work, however, depends on the details. Are the characters interesting? Is the writing compelling? Do we care? I think Harper did a great job on all three.

Firstly, The Dry is atmospheric to an intoxicating extent. Harper uses really evocative description to make you feel the burning heat and the suffocating lack of moisture amid the drought in this rural Australian community. The sun blazes. The blowflies hover. It's the perfect place for a murder.

Aaron Falk returns to his hometown after twenty years away to attend a funeral. The funeral is for his old friend Luke Hadler, Luke's wife Karen, and his six-year-old son Billy. The story goes that Luke cracked under the stress of financial pressure and shot his family, leaving only baby Charlotte alive, before putting a bullet in himself. But there's just enough doubt to make Falk question this popular verdict.

Along with local police newbie, Raco, Falk finds himself drawn into the case, as well as the lives, tensions and conflicts of the people in the town. His own past gets dragged up and Falk is forced to question whether there might be some connection between what happened to Luke's family and what happened all those years ago.

The author expertly leads us down several roads that turn out to be red herrings and manages to pull out a dramatic and surprising conclusion. If you're a suspicious mystery reader like me - as in, you suspect everyone - then you might guess who did it, but I doubt very much you will guess the whys. And I personally think this is what makes a good mystery - the unveiling of the tale and the whys of the crime are good enough to make it okay if you guess whodunnit.

A really impressive start to this new series starring Aaron Falk. Sign me up for the next book!

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Profile Image for Yun.
505 reviews18k followers
January 21, 2022
Oh ok, I get it now. I can see why everyone loves this book!

Federal agent Aaron Falk goes back to his hometown for the funeral of Luke, his childhood best friend. Luke, along with his family, had died in suspicious circumstances. After the funeral, Luke's parents beg Falk to stay and look into the family's death. And just like that, Falk is drawn back into the small town's web of hardship, suspicion, and small-mindedness.

I find Jane Harper to be a riveting storyteller and The Dry is no different. Her characters are interesting and fully-formed, while the mystery itself is intriguing. The unfurling of the plot is skillfully handled, with plenty of suspense and momentum. With a neatly compiled list of potential suspects, the reader's attention is directed one way, then another, but the reveal at the end still takes me by surprise.

As an aside, I don't know what it is with Harper's books, but the blurbs just never do anything for me. Small towns, gossip and secrets, hot dry weathers, landscapes of dirt, small-mindedness, these are all things that don't really appeal to me. And yet, her stories end up being so compelling! Either she needs to hire someone else to write her book blurbs or I just need to stop reading them and trust that Harper hasn't let me down yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
See also, my thoughts on:
#2. Force of Nature

The Lost Man
The Survivors
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,500 reviews24.5k followers
December 1, 2016
This is an astonishingly good crime fiction debut by Jane Harper set in Australia. Aaron Falk and his father were run out of their home in Kiewarra over twenty years ago over rumours of Aaron's hand in the death of Ellie Deacon. It was ruled a suicide and Aaron had an alibi, his best friend Luke. Aaron has returned to Kiewarra for the funeral of Luke, his wife, Karen and his son, Billy. It appears that Luke shot his family and then himself due to their poor financial state caused by the unrelenting drought. Aaron is now a financial investigator with the Melbourne Police and Luke's parents do not believe their son is responsible for such unforgivable acts. They ask a reluctant Aaron to see what he can find out.

There is a mean and nasty streak running through the local community compounded by the never ending and relentless heat. Led by Mel and Dow Deacon, the old rumours about Aaron having a hand in Ellie's death are resurrected and a vociferous campaign against him begins. They are determined to hound him out for a second time and are not above using underhand and dirty tactics to achieve their aim. Aaron joins forces with local cop, Sergeant Raco, who has his own doubts about Luke's guilt. Evidence soon accrues that suggests Luke is innocent of wiping out his family. Aaron's memories of the past come to the fore and the mystery of Ellie's death runs as a concurrent thread. Aaron and Raco slowly begin to uncover the secrets, lies and fears buried in Kiewarra. The closer they come to the truth, the more they unsettle a killer willing to ignite a conflagration in a place ill equipped to handle it. The truth behind Ellie's death also begins to become clear.

The author does an excellent job in bringing Kiewarra alive and the disparate characters that inhabit the place. It is a closed and intense community where people hold on to grudges and feelings with such fervour, as though letting them go would result in the disintegration of the self. The drought threatens livelihoods, and the heat raises stresses sky high. This is a well written story with a compelling narrative. The character development is so well done. The tension and suspense keep the reader totally enthralled. Cannot wait to see what Jane Harper writes next. Highly recommended and brilliant read. Thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,336 followers
February 21, 2022
I was drawn to this arid Australian crime thriller by a desert storm of five-star reviews, not to mention the fact that this was The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year.
Hmmm…
*Fold his arms and sighs*
I'm not saying that this was a bad book … it was OK … though the storyline (for me) was flat, improbable, slow-paced and bereft of suspense.
Apart from that, it was fine!

Bland federal agent, Aaron Falk, returns to the small Outback town of his childhood for the funeral of his best friend (and also his best friend's immediate family) and is drawn into an unofficial investigation as to how they really met their deaths.

Here is a list of just some of the things that niggled me:

1) The book is titled The Dry. It's set in the swelter of the Outback in middle of the worst drought to hit Australia in a century. Yet I didn’t get any real sense of the suffocating heat, nor do I remember flies being swatted from any number of sweaty faces.

2) Aaron Falk is in town and just happens to be on the financial intelligence side of criminal investigation (how very convenient for the purpose of the story).

3) The dialogue was unconvincing. I mean, don't rough, tough, leather-necked Aussie men in the middle of the Outback ever use the f-word? I know Crocodile Dundee didn't, but come on!

4) I guessed who the killer was the moment he/she was introduced! As subterfuge goes, that’s pretty average.

5) I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters; most were portrayed as being small-minded and insular.

So, for me (and I seem to be swimming against the tide), this novel was several shrimps short of a barbie. But almost everyone else likes it, so please, please don't take a blind bit of notice of anything I've said!
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 302 books397k followers
December 20, 2020
A compelling mystery set in the Australian outback, The Dry starts with the horrific apparent murder-suicide of a local farming family. When Aaron Falk, an old friend of the supposed murderer, returns to the town from his job with the financial police in the big city, he reluctantly agrees to look into the gruesome killings for his old friend's parents, who can't believe their son would really kill his wife and young son, then shoot himself. In looking into the crime, Aaron has to open up his own Pandora's box of bad memories from a town he swore he would never visit again. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone has secrets to hide, including Aaron himself. Harper's pacing and structure are both excellent. The super short chapters kept me turning the pages. The sense of place was beautifully done. I wasn't entirely sold by the solution to the mystery. For me, the emotional equation didn't quite equal out, but it was certainly believable and shocking! I would definitely read more mysteries from Harper!
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews25.1k followers
March 2, 2017
*4.5 stars!*

What a book. I had to sleep on this one. Not like, right on top of it, it was just a little to the left of my pillow, but I needed time to process. It’s not as though this read was so incredibly intoxicating that I couldn't wrap my head around it—quite the contrary, actually.

The pace is steady and slow, verging on dull at times but never quite crossing that line. The plot itself is packed with twists, but they felt gentle and weren't especially shocking.

So what did it for me? The atmosphere. The mood this author was able to ignite within me through words alone. The setting. The conditions of the “dry” land and the desperation of a small Australian town facing the disastrous effects of a two-year drought. All of this came alive. Even the school kid’s artwork in this story displays a dire tone…brown grass and dead cows. Talk about getting a message across.

Now pile onto that a young girl's unresolved death lingering in the stale air; the recent murder of a mother and son; the suicide of a husband, and a town full of suspects.

I’d say the tone is expertly set, and yes, it’s bleak and dreary and despairing and you can feel it. You can see it. You can almost taste it — And that’s how well this author has created this world.

As for the intricacies and puzzles of the plot, I’d say they were decent and held my interest fairly securely throughout. However, nothing *wow’d* me as much as the visuals drawn out and the theme—solid, creative, and original—keeping present until the very end.

Definitely recommend to thriller readers seeking a slower pace, but one that still delivers some substance.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,291 reviews7,114 followers
December 27, 2016
*4.5 STARS*

First things first, applause for author Jane Harper, who's put together this cracking storyline set in the Australian farming community of Kiewarra.

Luke Hadler allegedly killed his wife Karen and young son Billy before turning the gun on himself, but is this tragedy as cut and dried as it appears?

Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk returns for the funeral of his childhood friend Luke, but he faces animosity and threats regarding the suicide of Ellie Deacon some twenty years ago. Ellie was a friend of Aaron and Luke, but there were rumours that the teenage boys were complicit in her death.

Luke's mother pleads with Aaron to investigate this more recent tragedy as she believes Luke was innocent and that someone else carried out the murders. Aaron joins forces with local cop Sergeant Raco, and so begins this riveting and complex investigation.

Kiewarra is a small community where memories are long and grudges even longer. The characters serve the story well, the plot is compelling, and the fact that the community is suffering a drought of epic proportions only adds to the simmering tensions already in place.

I can unreservedly recommend this excellent debut novel.

*Thank you to Netgalley, Little, Brown, and Jane Harper for my ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,032 reviews2,563 followers
December 29, 2022
The Dry  (Aaron Falk #1)  by Jane Harper  (Author), Steven Shanahan (Narrator)

Aaron Falk, a Federal Agent, has returned to his hometown of Kierwana, Australia, for the funerals of his childhood friend and his friend's wife and six year old son. The area has been going through the worst drought in a century and maybe that was a factor in the suspected suicide/murder of this family. But Aaron knows that he and his friend Luke had a huge secret, connected to the death of their teenage friend Ellie, twenty years ago. Luke and Aaron lied back then and more than one person knows they lied. After Ellie died, Aaron and his dad were run out of town because most people thought Aaron was involved in Ellie's death. This is the first time Aaron has been back to the town and he's there because Luke's dad demanded that he come to the funeral. 

In Jane Harper style, this is a very slow burn and the atmosphere is as much a character of this story as any person. Crops and farm animals are dead, and the ever present river, where sixteen year old Ellie's body was found, is entirely dried up. Heat, dust, flies, a sense of despair and shock add to the misery that Aaron feels as he knows that all eyes are on him and people are actively trying to run him out of town. He is asked to unofficially help with the investigation of the deaths, as things begin to look like suicide wasn't a factor in the deaths of Luke and his family. If Luke didn't kill his family, that means a murderer is still out there and maybe the murders are related to the death of Ellie. 

I enjoyed this story and the narration of Steven Shanahan and plan to read/listen to the follow up book, featuring Aaron Falk, Force of Nature. At this point, The Lost Man is still my favorite of the three Jane Harper books I've read so far. She is on my "must read' list and I look forward to more work from her, in the future.

Pub January 17, 2017 by Macmillan Audio
Profile Image for Julie .
3,989 reviews58.9k followers
February 15, 2017
The Dry by Jane Harper is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is my kind of mystery/thriller!

When Aaron returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke, he intends to make a retreat back to his life as a federal agent, as quickly as possible.

But, Luke’s grieving parents ask him to use his talents to look into Luke’s financial affairs, in hopes of finding answers as to why their son killed his wife and son and then shot himself. The chances are slim to none that Aaron would find anything to ease their pain, but he feels he owes them a favor, so he agrees to stick around a few more days.

Before long, Aaron finds himself partnered up with a local investigator in an all-out search for clues that would shed light on the events leading up to the murder/ suicide. In the process, they uncover startling evidence that will change everything they thought they knew.


The Australian location, in a town suffering through a severe drought, where the heat is nearly unbearable, has the entire town unusually edgy, which paints a combustible atmosphere riddled with irritable tension from start to finish.

The shocking murder/ suicide is a compelling mystery full of unexpected revelations and surprising twists, but the secondary thread that takes up equal space in the novel, is a haunting cold case story centered around the death of a friend of Luke’s and Aaron’s back in their youth. Aaron and his father were both suspects in the girl’s death, and left town under a cloud of suspicion. Can Aaron find out what really happened after all this time?

Dual storylines can be tricky, but both stories weave between the past and present with amazing fluidity. The story is bleak, almost gloomy at times, with little or no relief along the way, but the characterizations are so vivid and the story so taut, the heaviness became an asset and is part of what made the story so absorbing and moody, along with all the hidden small town motives, suspicions and secrets that came roiling to surface.

While the subject matter may not be for the faint of heart, with such dark and emotional themes at play, the story has practically everything fans of this genre could ask for. It’s a police procedural in some ways, a twisty psychological thriller in others, with strong suspense and thriller elements added into the mix for good measure.


The exceptional writing provides a wealth of depth, which sets this one apart from the typical mystery thriller. I am tingling with anticipation for the next book in this series! I think Aaron Falk is going to be big hit.

5 stars
Profile Image for Suz.
1,045 reviews533 followers
August 2, 2016
5 unflinchingly bright hot stars for 'The Dry'

Love having reading friends to share books with! Thanks Mel. Very glad to have unexpectedly stumbled across this one, considering I’d had a recent conversation with my local bookstore manager where she’d mentioned it’s their top seller. I always ask her what is the current best seller. Best seller it is.

A dazzling debut where again I am left wondering, what’s debut-ish about this work? The entire read I was chopping and changing my mind about who killed this young family in cold blood. I was wary of Gretchen, wondering why the school Principal was so often at the local pub.

Loved the writing, soft hearted at times ‘…washed down with a decent shiraz – he felt he was a little bit in love with her himself.’ This reader was a bit in love with protagonist Faulk, love a character that is capable and a teeny bit flawed. My 18-year-old self would have warmed to him, as did a young Ellie here in this story.

The harsh landscape explained to a tee. ‘It was terrifying. It was a flash of hell. The land was drier now than it had been then. This would be no slow burn.’ ‘They rolled and burned for a thousand hours until a pair of thick gloved hands reached down and hauled Faulk back by the shoulders.’

This is an author to watch out for, and I smiled to read her dedication – “To my parents, Mike and Helen, who always read to me.”

So to you all, I wholeheartedly recommend this non-put-down-able book to Australian fiction lovers, thriller lovers and supporters of Australian Women Writers. Would love to know what you think.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
306 reviews2,324 followers
September 18, 2017
I blame Aaron Falk. He just made me add a new shelf on Goodreads. Series. You see, I don't like book series. With a few exceptional characters preceding Aaron Falk (Harry Potter, Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, Kinsey Milhone) have I read an entire series. It's just too much of a commitment and then I feel guilty if I miss a book in the series. I will not be missing any book that Aaron Falk is in. Ever. No way, no worries, mate.

I am so late to THE DRY party that I almost didn't read it. Finally, feeling caught up and proud of myself for all my ARC reading, I picked up one of the few hardbacks I have actually bought and opened up.

“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse."
--Jane Harper, The Dry

What a terrific first sentence! Jane Harper, you hooked me at page 1, sentence one.

As a reader, I am immediately FEELING this dusty, angry, Australian farm town as it reels from one of the worst droughts in history. I could hear the flies buzzing, see the rabbits eating the last bits of vegetation and smell the despair of the townspeople as they try to hang on to their livelihoods without any rain. I have not experienced this type of magical transportation in a long time. It is perfectly intoxicating.

Stay with me, because that is just the setting of the book. Now, add a hardworking federal cop, Aaron Falk, who has relunctantly come back to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend. Aaron Falk is not a perfect hero, he has issues and secrets, but he tries to do right by his friends and he knows something is wrong here. Aaron's childhood friend, Luke, has been accused of murdering his own family before turning the gun on himself. Aaron and Luke shared a secret many years ago which we learn of during the investigation of the family murder. Does this old secret have anything to do with Luke killing his family?

Aaron Falk is a tough nut to crack. The author shares just enough about him to make you want more. He is interesting, smart. A loner, a good guy, but what makes him tick? Oh, I'm a devoted fan. I will follow Aaron Falk through every one of his next books, even if there are fifty more to come.

Is this a character or plot driven mystery? BOTH! Plus, that Aussie setting! It is so real, you better keep your chapstick handy for the parched lips you develop while reading.

Sidenote: As I was reading THE DRY, Oregon's beloved Columbia Gorge was on fire for weeks (still is). Portland was enveloped in smoke, ash and heat! So hard to breathe! My own atmospheric reality definitely contributed to the transforming ability the book had on me- haha. Not to diminish this captivating story in any way. It stands on it's own, even if you read it at the North Pole!
Profile Image for Matt.
3,613 reviews12.8k followers
February 23, 2017
Succumbing to some of the biblio-peer pressure surrounding Jane Harper's debut novel, I thought I ought to make a little time and see what she had to offer. Australia has been hit with one of its worst droughts ever, turning fertile lands into blobs of brown. In the community of Kiewarra, rain has not fallen in upwards of two years, only adding to tensions. An emergency call is made and authorities arrive at the Hadler farm to find a bloodbath. Luke Hadler appears to have killed his wife and son, before turning the gun on himself. The town chalks this up to extreme duress and a cloud of murder-suicide hangs over the town, which accompanies the scorching sun. When Aaron Falk returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, townsfolk whisper. Falk is forced to remember what happened two decades before, when a friend, Ellie Deacon, was found dead in the river and a note addressed to him turned up. His alibi is flimsy and turns out to have been concocted with the help of Luke, though they thought the secret would prove impenetrable. While Falk has made a name for himself in the Federal Police, he remains that teenager whose name was bandied around as having been responsible. Falk faces those awkward memories as he tries to better understand what could have pushed Luke to kill his family, with whom he was apparently very proud when last they chatted. Falk works with some of the local authorities to investigate the deaths, turning up small inconsistencies. Could someone have harboured animosity for twenty years and finally sought revenge for Ellie's untimely death? Could Falk be next on the list? Working to uncover what might have happened on the Hadler farm, Falk must clear his friend's name, while standing firm as the past rears its ugly head. A wonderful first novel that allows Harper to show that she is someone to be taken seriously in the genre. Perfect for mystery fans and those looking for a superior story to enthral and entertain.

Harper has made a wonderful first impression on me with this novel, developing a strong police procedural alongside the complexities of small-town Australia. Aaron Falk serves as a wonderful protagonist as he keeps the narrative moving forward with his investigative skills, though the darker past that he has been forced to revisit keeps readers wondering about this man until the final sentence. This hint at a less than pristine Falk allows Harper to introduce a number of other characters whose importance varies, while pushing the narrative forward. Kiewarra proves also to be effective as a setting, as it mixes that proximity to big city life with the quaint farm living that has become destroyed with the current drought. A community that holds grudges while wanting to envelop its citizens away from prying eyes, Harper uses these traits to further enrich her narrative. Harper's use of flashbacks throughout, rather than straight recounting dialogue, gives the reader a great deal of insight and provides a true 'revelation' perspective throughout the story, as if the reader were witnessing some of the events that had been mentioned in passing. The reader learns much from these glimpses into the past and it provides a telling connection to the larger story. Overall, a wonderful piece that should provide momentum for a series, should that be the route Harper wishes to pursue. Curious readers should not take the title to be indicative of the quality or presentation of the novel, but that stocks at booksellers will disappears as swiftly as an Australian brushfire. Get your copy today and you will not be sorry!

Kudos, Madam Harper for such a great start you your published career. I can see that many others have come to like this work and I cannot wait to get my hands on whatever you have coming.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:
http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Luffy.
932 reviews697 followers
August 11, 2020
I sigh with relief when I realize I've read a 5 star book at last. I sigh with content. The setting was kind of interesting, and I have always believed that pound for pound, Australian literature has been punching above its weight for quite some time.

This book was so good. So freaking good. It doesn't need any words. Not that I have a clue about its reputation...I picked it up on a whim and haven't looked back since. This is the writing that will entice millions across the globe.

It's been centuries since the classical revolution, and the empirical golden age, yet the English language seems to be a leader in authors and books. It shows no sign of abating. I hope it will keep on churning books like The Dry centuries after my death.
Profile Image for Debbie.
423 reviews2,682 followers
November 16, 2017
There in The Dry, it’s raining 5-star reviews, and here I sit, trying to get right with my 3-star drip-drop. Maybe I’m using silly water analogies because I’m remembering how parched this locale is, a small farm town in Australia, and I need some liquid. I’m sure that a big part of the allure of this story (about a guy, Falk, who is trying to solve a heinous crime) is its vivid, scorched setting. Everything is hot and dry and slow. I didn’t feel the heat for some reason, but I definitely felt the slow. I so wish I liked it more. It’s way more fun to be in the gush club.

There is a small Joy Jar, but it’s tucked away in the corner where I more or less ignore it because the meh is so overwhelming. I will tell you what the Joy Jar holds, of course: The book is well-written, the pace is good, there isn’t fluff, and the atmosphere is vivid. All very good things.

But before I lug out the Complaint Board, I will say that part of my reaction is due to two things that have nothing to with the book itself: Over-hype, for one. And second, I’m not crazy about whodunits where it’s a police procedural deal. I don’t dislike them, but it has to be a knock-my-socks-off kind of thing for me to get all busy with a Joy Jar.

Complaint Board

-Pick up the pace. I’m repeating myself so I apologize, but for me it was slow. It seemed to especially sag in the middle, where I thought too much time was spent on one bad guy. It felt like the record got stuck, and I needed the needle to get unstuck faster.

-Plain Jane language and plot. Sigh, I wanted some fire.

-Italic flop. The author put the past story as italic entries right in the middle of the present story. This didn’t work for me. At times I expected and wanted it to be a first-person memory, which would have felt more natural. Instead, all of the sudden a third-person narrative about the past rudely interrupted the story, and it seemed intrusive and clumsy.

-Stereotypes are a drag. The good guys were too good, the bad guys too bad.

-Dull characters are a drag too. It appears that Falk, the main character, will live on in future novels. Sorry, he just seemed dull to me. And the rest of the crew made me snooze too. I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters.

-If it’s a small town, I’m a pain in the ass. I get claustrophobic, bored, and rebellious in small towns. Writers who set their stories in small towns have to work harder to please me: There must be exceptional language or characters, or the emotions must be palpable. There must be passion! Not the case here for me.

-The criminal came out of left field. The character who committed the crime wasn’t developed enough; they came out of left field. I needed a hint or two so I could have the fun of guessing. This complaint gets an asterisk because it was a biggie for me.

-Come on, we all knew that! One character’s situation was too predictable. No biggie, but I get annoyed when there’s a glaring truth that is revealed as a big surprise at the end.

-Shaky hands. This is so minor, it’s embarrassing. Twice in one chapter, a character noticed that someone’s hands were shaking. I just never believe that a person’s hands shake when they are upset, unless they are doing something like walking on the ledge of a tall building or stepping on a hissing rattlesnake—some life-or-death situation.

The moral of the story: Lower my expectations. Don’t ever assume that because everyone else loves a book, I will, too. For me, it was pure dullsville.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,846 reviews34.9k followers
April 4, 2017
"Officially the worse conditions in a century" .....Melbourne, Australia.

"The weather pattern had a bad name" ----"El Nino" ----in "The Dry".
"El Nino" refers to "the little boy", so named because the pool of warm water in the Pacific near South America is often at the warmest around Christmas. The original name, El Niño de Navidad, traces its origin centuries back to Peruvian fisherman, Who named the weather phenomenon in reference to the newborn Christ.
"The Dry", itself refers to the long standing drought .....The afternoon heat was a scorcher. No rain meant no feed. "And no feed made for difficult decisions as the tiny-town shimmered under day after day of burning blue sky".

THIS NOVEL is as WONDERFUL as everyone is saying with MARVELOUS CHARACTERS--that makes this book so darn GOOD!!!

"First on the scene, the flies swarmed contently in the heat as the blood pooled black over the tiles and carpet. Outside, washing hung still on the rotary line, bone dry and stiff from the sun. A child's scooter lay abandoned on the stepping-stone path. Just one human heart beat within a kilometer radius of the farm".
"So nothing reacted when, deep inside the house, the baby started crying".

Aaron Falk....takes center stage in this story. He returns to his hometown-Kiewarra after having been away twenty years to attend the funeral of his old childhood friend,
Luke Hadler. Aaron and his father left town years ago - after it was implied that Aaron
had a role in the death of a young girl named Ellie Deacon.

Aaron is now a Federal investigator of financial crimes-- and Luke's parents, Gerry and Barb Hadler, ask Aaron to stay in town after Luke's funeral to investigate the truth. Aaron says - he's not a murder investigator.... but Luke's parents said, "we've come to you. You're the police". Aron insists that he doesn't do that type of work anymore that he's on the financial side dealing with money.
Barb thinks money may have played a part of it besides....Aaron knew Luke better than any of the town police. They are hoping Aaron will clear his name...... and find out what really happened for the death of his wife Karen and their little boy Billy. And even the facts around the baby - Charlotte.... who was found alive in the house of a murder scene.

We have two storylines:
1. The present family murder case of Luke, Karen, and Billy.
2. The past death of Ellie Deacon. Ellie was friends with both Luke and Aaron as teenagers. The only truth we know early in this story is that BOTH Aaron and Luke lied the night of Ellie's death. Ellie was found dead in the river with rocks in her pockets -- so did she commit suicide or did somebody kill her? And why did Luke and Aaron both lie that night?

Many questions run through the readers mind as the story unfolds in this tightly
constructed lyrical novel. For me ---One of the biggest pleasures was the conversational voices among the characters. I understand there is going going to be a follow-up story.......which leaves me questions about the ending of this book....
and looking forward to meeting Aaron Falk again.

Readers who love Tana French - will love Jane Harper's stellar talents, just as much!!!


Profile Image for Skyler Autumn.
224 reviews1,376 followers
February 20, 2018
2 Stars

I don't get it? I am reading all these 5 star rave reviews for The Dry and I'm just left here thinking, what the hell am I missing?

description

This book was a bit of a chore for me to read. I literally had to force myself to read it, and I know what people are think, then why didn't you just stop reading it? And I have two answers for that:
1. I'm a stubborn bitch
2. I kept thinking the next chapter was going to blow my mind and then I'll understand these rave reviews, but as chapters went by I soon came to the realization this was going to be another over hyped read that doesn't live up to the hype.

The Dry is about Aaron Falk as he returns to his very dry hometown (I mean that both literally and figuratively) Kiewarra, to attend the funeral of his childhood friend Luke Hadler who allegedly murdered his wife, his child, decided to leave the baby alone and then go off himself. Murder-suicide what an interesting start to a mystery novel you may say! You my friend would be mistaken.

Aaron Falk and his dull personality pulls up to the scene, and is forced to come face-to-face with the past that he has been running from his whole life. Apparently when Aaron Falk was teenager one of his friend's Ellie was found dead in the river. Shortly after Aaron Falk's name was found written on a piece of paper in Ellie's room. Apparently in this little town that is enough to cause crazy accusations because towns' people in this novel are idiots, so with no alibi that night his dear friend Luke lies for him saying they were together the day of Ellie's death. Regardless of the lie people got their pitchforks out because this kid who has been nothing but the shining example of wholesome his whole teenage life, has his name scribbled on a piece of paper in Ellie's room so clearly he's a cold blooded killer! This logic is so sound even his own Dad is suddenly suspicious of him. Seemed out of left field to me but who am I to question the simpleton mindset of this idiotic small town.

So Aaron Falk asked by both a local cop and Luke Hadler's father begins looking into his friend's death and finding out if he truly did murder his family and then kill himself, while simultaneously figuring out what happened to his friend Ellie all those years ago.

This novel like it's title suggests is very dry the characters are so one dimensional and barely developed that they literally could have been interchangeable in my mind. I found myself looking back at the beginning chapters to remind myself who a character was, because no personalities were truly defined. Even the protagonist Aaron Falk had the charaisma of a wet blanket, he's in the accounting division of the FBI and he truly lived up to the stereotype of the classic office accountant.

The mystery itself lacked any sort of urgency. Everyone was already long dead and there was no need to find the murderer quickly because they weren't racking up victims. So that gave way to lots of time for talking, and drinking, flirting, more drinking, reminiscing, thinking, walking, drinking, chatting... and so on. This novel was just Aaron Falk being sullen and contemplating everything. So when murderers are revealed I'm like ok, well I guess that good for closure... honestly I don't really care that much.

So I think my overall feelings of this novel can be explained by that exact sentiment. I really didn't care that much. If you want a proper gritty, disturbing, stressful detective series may I suggest you pass on this book and go straight for M.J Arlidge's Helen Grace series. Unlike this series it lives up to the hype and then some!
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews557 followers
November 6, 2020
⭐⭐ This book is flawless!! ⭐⭐

What an outstanding character-driven mystery. Actually a mystery within a mystery and I highly enjoyed the last three days that I've spend immersed in this book.

At no point did I think 𝘩𝘮𝘮𝘮𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴𝘯'𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘦 or 𝘤'𝘮𝘰𝘯 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺? or 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 or any of the other things that can pull me from a story.

The writing is perfect - a fair amount could have been edited out but I'm glad it wasn't because it added extra depth and history to the characters - and the plot was convincing and not over the top. There's lots of hints that are clear in hindsight and all loose ends are tied up and make logical sense.

I'm so happy there's a second part and since reading this and The Survivors, Jane Harper now has a place as one of my favourite authors.

One thing though.....
I listened to this book and the narrator did a good job but the MC is named Aaron Falk and is almost entirely refered to by his surname. And it's said a lot. So it's all Falk this and Falk that. With the Australian accent it feels like being cursed at 😅 One line is even 'Falk, the cops!' and I was like 𝘢𝘮 𝘐 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘰𝘳 90'𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘱 𝘩𝘰𝘱?! Lol
Yes I'm really looking forward to the sequel, but will I go with the audio version? Falk no.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
January 7, 2017
This beautifully written mystery transported me to Kiewarra, Australia, a small farming community that is suffering from a drought, and also from being mired in the past.

Aaron Falk, a federal financial police officer, reluctantly returns to Kiewarra to attend the funeral of his former best friend, Luke Hadler. It appears that Luke committed a murder suicide, killing his wife, Karen, and their six-year-old son, Billy, before taking his own life. The community is in shock and speculation abounds. Why would Luke Hadler kill his wife and son? Furthering the mystery is why he left his baby daughter, Charlotte, alive.

Falk plans to spend 24 hours in Kiewarra, but Luke’s parents ask him to investigate the family’s financials, hoping that he can uncover something that can add some insight into Luke’s actions. Falk teams up with the local Sergeant and the two slowly begin to uncover secrets and lies that dredge up the past, including the death of Ellie Deacon, a girl with whom Falk shared a past.

Falk’s relationship with Ellie comes under scrutiny and tensions arise. Not only is Falk’s life put in danger, but also the entire community Kiewarra is put at risk.

I can’t say enough good things about The Dry. The plot is intricately woven, the characters are developed, the writing is engaging, and the mystery is satisfying! I highly recommend!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews505 followers
September 12, 2019
Well, you know it's a good book when you finish it you just sit back and go WOW! I'm not even sure where to start with this review. Okay, I'll start at the start, which sees Federal Officer Aaron Falk head back to his hometown after twenty years to attend the funeral of his childhood best mate, Luke, who, along with his wife Karen and oldest child Billy have all died in what looks like an open and shut case of murder/suicide. Yet Luke's mother says it can't be and asks Aaron to look further into the deaths while he is in town. Not so easy when early the whole township is against Aaron, after he was forced to flee with his father all those years ago after a girl, Ellie, was found drowned in the river and the town, led by Ellie's father Mal, has decided Aaron was guilty of her murder. Plus he has come back to a town that is in the grip of a crippling drought, with local farms and businesses on their knees, which just adds to the churlishness of the townsfolk. So, with nothing much to go on Aaron and the local Police Sergeant start looking into the tragedy, yet they find that secrets, including Aaron's own have a way of making their way to the surface, and that small town mindsets are hard to shake.

In this gripping debut Jane Harper has really captured the essence of small towns, and her descriptions of the people, and the grip of the drought, are all too real. She brings the hard setting to life, with characters and locations that just jump off the page. You will find this book very hard to put down. A must read!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,436 reviews29.4k followers
February 23, 2017
Wow, this was really a great book! I love it when books which are hyped actually live up to the praise they're getting, and Jane Harper's The Dry definitely did.

This book had everything—great writing, a terrifically evocative setting (I felt hot every time I read it, and it wasn't just because I'm running a fever, and I kept expecting everyone I came into contact with to speak with an Australian accent), interesting character development, and lots of twists and turns. It's amazing to think that this is Harper's debut novel, because it felt like a book written by a virtuoso.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra, the small, rural Australian town where he grew up, when he hears that his childhood best friend, Luke, is dead, along with Luke's wife and young son. Actually his return for Luke's funeral isn't by choice: he's summoned by Luke's father, who threatens to bring to light an old secret that Luke and Aaron shared if he doesn't come home. Years ago, their friend Ellie Deacon drowned, but it turned out she was murdered. Luke and Aaron were each other's alibi that night, although neither really asked where the other one was. Many in the town suspected they lied.

"They'd all been so tight. Teenage tight, where you believe your friends are soul mates and the bonds will last forever."

Kiewarra has been ravaged by endless drought and the townspeople are on edge, coupled with the tragic circumstances around the deaths of Luke and his family. Given that Aaron and his father fled the town years ago, after both were accused of being involved in Ellie's death, many people in town, including Ellie's ne'er-do-well father and violent cousin, still aren't happy to see him.

As much as he wants to get out of Kiewarra as quickly as he arrived, Aaron promises Luke's parents that he will look into what really happened the day Luke and his family died. Partnering with a local police officer, Aaron tries to make sense of who could have been involved, and they both quickly find more than their share of secrets and lies, and Aaron must come face-to-face with an unending supply of childhood memories, some good, some bad. But the more they dig into the crime, the more they uncover, and the more hostile the townspeople become.

Is this crime related to the lie that Luke and Aaron told all those years ago, or was something else afoot? Are those still trying to cause people to suspect Aaron's involvement in Ellie's death actually involved in Luke's? Did the drought so destroy this town and any sense of hope that someone felt compelled to murder, or did Luke just snap under pressure one day, like so many believe? These are questions Aaron and his police partner need to find answers to, but will danger find them first?

The truth is, a lot of times I'm hesitant to read crime or mystery novels where you actually have to figure out who the perpetrator is, mainly because I feel this way:



Harper really did her best to keep you guessing, although that didn't stop me from suspecting nearly everyone at one point. "Wait, you seem sympathetic? You did it," I thought. But while I wasn't completely surprised by the way she resolved the story, I still was surprised at the motivation behind it until the very end. And there was one revelation about the second mystery that baffled me, so I'm going to need to reach out to someone else who has read the book to see if I understood the plot correctly.

All told, this is a tremendously suspenseful, exceptionally well-written book that really blew me away. Lately I've been reading crime novels that have been more novel than crime, which hasn't been a bad thing, but The Dry was really a crime novel. If this is Harper's debut, I can't wait to see what comes next, because she hit a homer with this one!!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
February 18, 2021
fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books.

AND pulling double duty:

fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one ARC each month i'd been so excited to get my hands on and then...never read

in short, this was a perfect mystery novel.

unaware of how harmoniously i was organizing my media consumption, i picked this up at the same time i was (finally*) getting around to watching dublin murders—a series based on tana french’s first two books. this debut has a lot in common with french’s debut, In the Woods: it’s set in a very small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, it involves two crimes separated by decades, and it features a detective with, to put it mildly, a conflict of interest.

like tana french, harper takes a very literary approach to writing genre—and i know this is a very controversial statement—all the mystery fans shaking their tiny bloody fists and shrieking, “what, mystery novelists don’t write good?” &etc, but alls i mean by that assessment is that it’s not *driven* by the mystery; there’s a perfect balance between the mystery plot and her character work, and the writing in this puppy simply glides in that prose often deemed “effortless;” a distinction which does, in fact, require considerable effort to pull off.

He pushed open a heavy door to a hallway that smelled like sandwiches. Along the walls, kids' paintings and drawings were pinned up.

"Jesus, some of these are depressing," Raco murmured.

Falk could see what he meant. There were stick-figure families in which every face had a crayon mouth turned downward. A painting of a cow with angel wings. "Toffee My Cow in Heaven," the shaky caption read. In every attempt at landscape, the fields were colored brown.

"You should see the ones we didn't put up," Whitlam said, stopping at the office door. "The drought. It's going to kill this town."


the atmosphere is tremendously potent—the oppressive weight of an australian heatwave during an interminable drought, the harsh landscape backgrounding the anxieties of those with crops and livestock to consider, tensions flaring in the relentless heat, everything in the natural world and the human community seems to be crackling, on the verge. it’s the perfect place to drop a murder plot.

and, yeah, ⬆️see above⬆️: this was a perfect mystery novel. both the present-day investigation and the unwrapping-the-past backstory were compelling, with plenty of folds and wrinkles and red herrings, but there was also emotional heft, and real nuance in the way she wrote damage. i loved it, and i hate that i waited so long to read this. good thing i now have THREE other books of hers to read here, although knowing me, it’ll be another year before i get around to it. someone needs to investigate the mystery of where all my time goes.

* seriously, who has starz??

*************************************

well, now i feel stupid for waiting so long.

review to come.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews11.8k followers
July 21, 2018
Holy Cow!  What a wonderful book!  This book definitely had all my senses on high alert while reading this one!  

The mood, the atmosphere, the setting, the tone, the format…..

"Her goodbye as she left was as dry as the fields."

THE DRY by JANE HARPER is an absolutely engrossing and compelling whodunit crime mystery / thriller that drew me in right from the very first chapter to the very last page!

JANE HARPER delivers a clever, atmospheric, suspenseful, impressive, and very descriptive read here which was well-written and told in tandem from a past mystery and linking events of a family murder in the present.  What really grabbed my attention with this story was the extremely vivid portrayal of place and time.  The setting surrounding the dry conditions of this small town in Australia was so vivid that it had me desperately wanting and waiting for the rain to pour!

The novel kept me guessing as the mysteries gradually unfolded, although there was nothing real surprising with the reveal it was the way that the author delivered this story that made this book an exceptional read.  I also really enjoyed Aaron Falk’s character and will wait patiently to read the next book in this series.

To sum it all up it was an entertaining, exciting, tense, steady-paced, and a quick read with a very satisfying ending. Highly recommend!!

Review written and posted on our themed book blog Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading.
https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com

Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
670 reviews1,025 followers
November 8, 2018
This was my final book to complete my 2018 Goodreads challenge, and what a book it was!

Holy shit! 4.5 ⭐️

"They're like sharks in here mate...they'll pounce at the first sign of blood."

Wow! This was the definition of a claustrophobic small country town. Aaron Faulk returns to Kierawalla for the first time in 20 years, but not on good terms. His childhood friend is dead, presumed suicide after murdering his wife and son.
Twenty years previous, a teenage girl drowned in the nearby river, throwing the whole town into turmoil.
The searing heat, caused by 2 years with no rainfall only adds to the paranoid and boiling atmosphere. As Aaron begins looking into the death of Luke Hadler and his family, he becomes more and more uncertain. Luke was many things as a teen, but a murderer? And what about the drowning of Ellie Deacon? Was it really suicide, or something more sinister?

It was easy to get sucked into this novel. From the alcohol fueled feuds between neighbours, to the secrets hidden in plain sight. I was captivated by the powerful descriptions of the landscape in a dying town. The crimes added to the atmosphere and I thought it all unraveled in an exceptional way.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Debbie.
683 reviews425 followers
August 17, 2021
I love a good murder mystery, (especially when it takes place in Australia!), and in my opinion, this one has it in spades!

Why did I enjoy this story?

1. The plot moved along nicely, with author Jane Harper leaving compelling nuggets of clues. Amazingly, some of my suspicions proved correct (I was quite pleased with myself!), but some of my ideas were way out in left field, reminding me that I'm not Nancy Drew.
2. I could highly relate to the atmospheric setting as I sweated along listening to this story (western Canada is currently experiencing similar drought conditions!)
3. Although I accidentally forgot to heed GR friend, Farrah's advice, I did listen to the audiobook, but I kept in mind her comments regarding pronunciation of certain words. Luckily, narrator, Stephen Shanahan's Aussie accent wasn't a huge distraction for me! Also, the story flips from present to past, then back to present without any warning, even between paragraphs! This may be easier for some readers to follow along in print form, but surprisingly, I could keep up with these tense changes.
4. This book is the first in a series, but I feel this story works very well as a standalone.

If you enjoy a good "whodunit", then be sure to check this one out!
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
377 reviews1,593 followers
July 16, 2017

This was the first book in a new series and I was really surprised on how much I loved this book. The book is utterly addictive, and I found it hard to take a break from it, reading it within a couple of days. Jane has managed to create realistic characters, dealing with very realistic situations. You often feel that you are standing in Aaron Falk’s shoes, as you start to feel his emotions moving through your body. My favorite part about this book was how everyone was a suspect. When I had finally settled on a killer, I would have to change my mind, chapters later, and did so throughout the book. Then, when I had discovered who it was, I was shocked at the reasoning behind the murders. I couldn't believe that this was the author's debut novel. I am so happy that this is a series.

It is set in the fictional town of Kiewarra several hours drive from Melbourne. It is a hot, dry prolonged spell and the people are getting antsy as the heat roils around the dusty roads. Things are dying… and people are too.
When a farmer and his family are found shot dead, the community readily accepts that hopelessness and desperation have caused the father, Luke Hadler, to murder his wife and son and leaves his thirteen month daughter alive, before turning the gun on himself. His childhood friend, Aaron Falk, returns to Kiewarra to attend the funeral. Luke’s parents beg Aaron, a federal agent with the Financial Intelligence Unit in Melbourne, to look into Luke’s finances to see if things were really so dire that he committed murder-suicide. It doesn’t take long for Aaron to think things may not be what they seem and, with the help of the local police sergeant, Greg Raco, he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths at the Hadler farm.

Aaron's return also re-awakens an old mystery from when he was a teenager where his friend Ellie was found dead in the river.

This was an easy five star rating for me. I could easily vision everything in my head while writing my review. It definitely met the Wow factor for me. I cannot wait to read book two in the series.



Profile Image for Cheri.
1,684 reviews2,239 followers
May 4, 2017
4.5 Stars

”The Outback is impossible, forever and it’s free
No way can I find an end to what it means to me”

Sing You the Outback John Williamson


Mere days ago, I was inundated by water. Water, water, everywhere… Rivers overflowing … and suddenly I find myself transported to a land where rain hadn’t fallen in nearly two years.

”The drought had left the flies spoiled for choice that summer.”

The farmers told themselves that the drought wouldn’t last, said those words to each other, and to themselves, silently whispered like a desperate prayer.

”Outside, washing hung still on the rotary line, bone day and stiff from the sun. A child’s scooter lay abandoned on the stepping-stone path. Just one human heart beat within a kilometer radius of the farm.
So nothing reacted when, deep inside the house, the baby started crying.”


It is to this town of his youth that Aaron Falk returns. He recalls his days as a boy there, his early teen years spent at the rushing river he and his friends used to fish in, play in, now is barely recognizable. But he’s no longer a teenager; he’s a Federal agent specializing in forensic accounting, working in Melbourne. He’s spent the years in between trying to forget his childhood years in Kiewarra, the way his family was run out of town. He’s come back, reluctantly, for a funeral for Luke Hadler, the boy who was once his best friend. Luke Handler, his wife, Karen, and his six year-old son, Billy, all gone. Eighteen hours and he’s outta there.

It seems everyone in town believes that Luke killed his wife, and his son, and then turned the gun on himself. Only his infant daughter was left untouched.

”Luke Handler may have had a light on waiting for him when he came home, but something else from this wretched, desperate community had seeped through that front door and into his home. And it had been rotten and thick and black enough to extinguish that light forever.”

Falk has no idea what could have possibly prompted an act like this from Luke, it’s been a long time since the days when they were friends. Luke’s parents are taking care of his infant daughter, but are finding the town seems to be turning against them, turning away their business. They turn to Falk, hoping he can find something to clear Luke’s name. They can’t believe he would have, could have ever done this heinous act. But did they really know their son? Falk thought he did once, but now he’s not as sure.

Small towns have some things in common, the talk that lingers for decades, fingers pointed, the certainty that they know what happened lingers long after the time has passed. And the mystery of Ellie Deacon’s death still lingers, fingers still point at Aaron Falk.

Weaving in and out of time the way the river of his childhood flowed effortlessly, his memories of the past alternate with the search of the present day. Truth is what he’s after, in both times. Working with Raco, who is with the local police, they examine the case from multiple sides, running into dead ends.

For me, the characters that spoke to me the most were Ellie and Karen, both facing futures which seemed to have no right way to turn, both wanting to share their burdens but unable to share them in time to save them. What I really loved most about this novel the most was the atmosphere, the setting, the mood. So much desperation as the drought goes on, robbing them of their livelihood, no water for crops or livestock and watching everything you’ve worked for your whole life just wither away. What are you if you are a farmer and you can no longer farm your land? Even the children’s moods are affected, watching their animals die, the sky fill with dust and flies. Always the flies.

Recommended!


Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews916 followers
January 3, 2019
WANNA KNOW THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK? I need not worry about spending my money on the rest of the series.

The pacing of this story is slower than my dog walking from the car to the door at the veterinarian office.

I'm all about a slow burn, you could even call me a fan, BUT the best part of the slow burn is when the gasoline is thrown on the flames and it ignites into an eyelash singeing inferno. Which never happens in this story.

No doubt the plot sounds intriguing in the description, however I felt like a victim of a bait and switch. The characters are negative one dimensional, even the main character himself. Jeez looooeeeeze he's a drag, there's no wonder why he's single.

There is less than zero suspense. I never felt...well..I never felt anything while reading this book. I kept reading because I thought that surely, with all of the 5 ⭐ reviews, something fantastic was about to happen that would effectively erase my utter disappointment in this book. If you've been paying attention, it should be obvious that that never happened.

Lastly, the reason behind the slaughtering of the family just didn't measure up when compared to the alternative. Pretty ridiculous motive if you ask me. And I'm REALLY confused about the ending where Aaron is reading Ellie's diary or journal or whatever. How can he be reading about her death? I mean, did her ghost come back and write out her demise? I went back and read this part twice. HOW COULD SHE HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT HER OWN DEATH?!?

WANNA KNOW THE WORST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK? I really struggled to finish it and kept setting it aside, ultimately taking 3 days to finish it and NOW I'M 30+ BOOKS BEHIND ON MY 5000 BOOK GOAL!
Profile Image for Karen.
552 reviews1,080 followers
February 19, 2017
So this is a really good debut novel about a farming community in Australia, the murder of a young family..father, mother, young son, but their baby left unharmed.
This story also goes back and forth from present time to 20 yrs earlier when this father and his group of four friends were growing up there.
One of the group, Falk, is now a cop from the another city, who comes to town for the funeral of his friend and his family, and ends up on the case to try and find the killer. There are lots of possible suspects.. really keeps you guessing. I enjoyed the book, especially liked Falk.
February 9, 2017
4.5 stars! This is a GREAT book!! It grabbed my attention right away and didn't let go until the last page. After reading all of the excellent reviews, I was really looking forward to reading this book and it definitely lived up to the hype!

All of the characters were very well developed. I really liked Falk, the main character - he had a secretive side which had me questioning his past - I wanted to know his back story and figure out his intentions - I liked the aura of secrecy that surrounded him. The mystery of the story is two fold - one unsolved from twenty years ago and one from present day, both equally intriguing.

It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. The author, Jane Harper, has an undeniable talent for pulling the reader into the story with her vivid descriptions and compelling, suspenseful plot. I was completely engrossed in the characters' lives and atmosphere - I felt like I was part of the small farming community of Kiewarra, Australia - I could "feel" the endless heat of the drought, I could "smell" the stale bar air of the Fleece, I could "see" Falk walking the main street in town searching for answers. Harper did a fantastic job of leaving me hungry for more at the end of each chapter - I found myself reading "just one more" chapter well past my bedtime. The suspense and pacing of the novel are just perfect - I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime fiction!
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