The Dry


Jane Harper


Mystery & Thriller


Date Reviewed:

February 8, 2020

he Dry was published in 2016 and became a bestseller. It made NPR's list of best books for the year. In this case, all the praise is justified, The Dry is a terrific novel. It is well plotted, it has variety of well drawn characters, and it is intriguing. Set in Australia in the tiny farming town of Kiewarra, it is the site of an apparent murder / suicide crime. Farmer Luke Hadler was found dead of a shotgun blast in his pickup truck. Also dead from shotgun blasts are his wife Karen and their small boy Billy. Returning to Kiewarra for the funerals is agent Aaron Falk. Falk grew up in Kiewarra, but he and his father were chased out of town years ago by a different tragedy, the drowning death of Ellie Deacon. Aaron had an alibi during Ellie's death, but not everyone in the small town believed him.

Kiewarra is gripped in a fierce drought. The farms are failing, it is entirely plausible that a despairing Luke might have turned the gun on himself and his family. But Aaron was good friends with Luke when growing up, in fact he lived on a nearby farm; the two young boys spent hours together. Could Luke really have murdered his own family? Luke's parents are well known to Aaron, and they plead with him to investigate the death of their son - but although Aaron is a detective, he works in Melbourne solving cases of financial crimes, not gruesome violent murder scenes. Aaron doesn't want to get involved, but he reluctantly drives out to the Hadler farm to look around. There he meets Sergeant Greg Raco, who is hunting around the premise. Raco is looking for shotgun shells, specifically, Remington cartridges. The Hadler's will killed by Remington shells, but Raco can only find Winchester shells on the property. So was this really a murder / suicide, or has the scene been staged to make it appear that way?

Every character that Harper introduces is believable. Whether friendly or menacing, trustworthy or suspicious, everyone seems like a real person with motivations and feelings. I liked how Harper unveiled each clue in this well-thought-out novel. There are some misdirections and surprises. The story unfolds as each clue is revealed, and the tension gets stronger.

I see that Harper has published a sequel called Force of Nature. I want to read that book soon. I highly recommend The Dry.