First published in the U.S. in 2017
My rating: 4 out of 5
The Short Of It:
A solid mystery novel. I enjoyed the Australian setting!
The Long Of It:
Crime fiction has been inundated with psychological thrillers the past couple of years, and it's been a while since I've read a good, straightforward contemporary murder-mystery. "The Dry" fits the bill and managed to skirt the formulaic storyline mysteries sometimes fall into. I was pleasantly surprised that I was never able to guess whodunit, and that the richly described setting (rural Australia) played an important role in the story.
Aaron Falk works for the federal police in Melbourne as a financial investigator and it's been years and years since he's been home to remote Kiewarra. He has no choice but to go back, however, when his childhood best friend, Luke, commits a heinous crime. Of course, all is not necessarily as it seems, and these horrific current events may be linked to a dark time in Luke and Aaron's past -- the reason Aaron and his father left Kiewarra and why the townspeople are none too happy to have Aaron in their midst once again. Really, readers get two mysteries in one -- and you'll be guessing the whole time whether there's a connection between the past death and the present ones.
The story was intriguing and I really liked Aaron as a person and a detective. He was investigating off-duty in this novel, but I was excited to see there will be another book -- presumably with Aaron officially on the case -- next winter. I also appreciated how much Australian feel was woven into the book, both in the dialogue and the setting, and how Harper conveyed the rugged vastness of the bush, the agonies and benefits of small-town life, and an overall feeling of hardship and loneliness. If you're curious about the title, it's called "The Dry" because Kiewarra is suffering from a terrible drought -- a disaster that's got everyone in town on edge.