Title: THE LOST MAN
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Mystery | Suspense
BACK COVER BLURB
Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.
Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
WHAT I THOUGHT
Jane Harper has done it again. Written another compelling, thought-provoking, absorbing slice of life in the Aussie outback beneath a blistering sun. THE LOST MAN is as complex and twisted as they come and taking the same formula that worked for THE DRY, puts the reader deep in the heart of Queensland, riding roughshod over a family that like THE DRY, has one too many secrets buried deep in the scorched red earth.
Everyone, including the Pommy backpackers, has a story to tell. And every character, including the children, have secrets they’re not supposed to share. And as the story and the details surround the grisly death of middle son, Cameron, unfolds, layer after layer, is peeled away revealing forgotten and hidden truths left to long festering in the dark. Family secrets that begin to bleed through as Nathan, the eldest son of Liz and Carl Bright, narrates the story.
Oh, what a wonderfully twisted mind Harper must have, because she skillfully weaves a thoroughly absorbing multi-layered story about people struggling on every front: with loneliness, the weather—brutal and unforgiving—to familiar family dynamics. Each character is a richly detailed person with their own set of problems, but the heart of the story is centred around Nathan, as he starts to piece together what happened both present, and past.
These fascinating characters are at the heart of this family drama, but the countryside, and the brutal unforgiving world these people live in, is also a big part of Harper’s storytelling; bringing the landscape to life as a breathing, living thing. Her detailed descriptions have you sweating in the heat, they’re so visceral. I felt like I could see the shimmer of the heat across the dry, baked ground, hear that hum of wind and sand, and feel my skin blistering beneath the noon-day sun.
“At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.”
The one thing you can be certain of, Jane Harper really knows how to tell a great story, giving ample room for each character to draw you in, delving into everyone’s worst fears and dark secrets. And using Nathan, as an amateur detective, slowly and deceptively, unravels and reveals the truth behind Cameron’s death in an utterly believable way. There are a number of themes, including abuse and rape, that are explored with a deft, careful hand. But it’s the family dynamics that Harper excels at, that keep you page turning right through to an end I didn’t see coming till the last minute, when I was as thoroughly surprised as Nathan!
Harper has the ability to captivate the reader and transport them into a wholly believable world, where everyone, including the land, is in a struggle for survival.
If you enjoy emotionally charged, character driven, layered stories, then Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN is a must.
Rating: 10 / 10