Tag: Flatiron Books

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Book Summary

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 skilfully weave 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 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.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Book Summary

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.

Only four come out on the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

What I Thought

Jane Harper has done it again. She has captured lightning in a bottle not once, but twice. With FORCE OF NATURE she has crafted a second beguiling novel, with a tapestry of threads that crisscross throughout the story weaving a masterpiece of misdirection till the final reveal. A surprise, I for one, never saw coming. The clever red herrings, the subtle misdirects, she does it all to perfection. You think you know what’s going on? You don’t. And believe me, I’m pretty good at sussing out the culprit early on. Not this time around.

Harper’s oh so believable cast of characters—highlighting the best and worst of human nature under duress, and in a hostile environment—are people you might know, people you might have met or worked with, people who, as the story progresses, start to fall apart. I loved every scene and every page detailing what happened to the five women as they set out on what should be, a bonding weekend. As they dissolve into a female version of Lord of the Flies. Every bitching, snide remark, every possible slight, every hurt revealed. Every fibre of these women is shredded, slowly and surely, till they become their own worst enemies.

For me, this is writing at its best. The detail, the emotion, the pain and the secrets, are all slowly laid bare for us. Every scab is picked at till it bleeds, and we see what’s beneath the thin veneer of respectability. Five women from the same company, but from different strata, thrown together and then, go feral. But there is so much more than that, so much more than the in-fighting. Lives and secrets opened up along with the lies and deceit. And why people do what they do. Harper gets in there, beneath the skin, and exposes it all.

Aaron Falk, who was, for the most part, the focus of The Dry, takes almost a back seat in FORCE OF NATURE, as Harper alternates chapters featuring the slow dissolution of the five women, and between Falk, his new partner, Carmen, and the search for the missing woman. Each dynamic has its part to play in the story as a whole, and each chapter dovetails cleverly to keep you guessing. I liked how we got to see a bit more of Falk’s history with his father, filling out more of his own backstory, while not deflecting from the story at hand, the missing women lost in an unforgiving outback.

A rugged brutal landscape that is the perfect backdrop to this kind of story, and a character in and of it self. All adding to the tension that slowly builds towards a heartbreaking reveal. Nothing and no one is ever what they seem, and Harper makes sure we are left wondering right up till the last few pages about the who, why, and how.

Clever twist and turns, so that you never quite know what’s going to happen next, or what these women might say or do next, is, believe it or not, a gripping read. Try it for yourself, you will not be disappointed.