Jody and I both love reading Australian books. We feel so lucky to live in a country with such a rich literary landscape, despite the relatively small population. The country itself is large though, and a large country with a small population lends itself to loneliness and isolation. This landscape makes the perfect setting for crime stories like The Dry by Jane Harper.
The Dry is set in an Australian drought, where the heat shimmers off the dusty land. The farms and their animals are dying, their bones left to be picked clean and whiten in the sun. It is set in small-town Kiewarra, where everyone knows everyone else and little remains secret. There is one heavy secret lingering over the town though. It is a secret kept between Aaron Falk and Luke Hadler, about a friend of theirs who drowned in the river many years ago when they were just teenagers. This death forces Falk and his father out of the town and into the city, where he lives an unsettled life.
That is, until Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and his young son in Kiewarra, before killing himself. At least, that’s what seems to have happened. Falk returns to the town to mourn his friend’s death but soon finds himself caught up in the secrets of the past.
The Dry is a true page-tuner. I read it quickly – on the train, in my lunch break, late into the night, wanting to know what happens. The appeal is in the landscape which reflects the attitudes of the town, and those of the main character Falk. He has dried up since he left town, just living life without much thought, without much depth. A kind of personal drought.
This is one of those books where the landscape itself is a character. The townspeople are so impacted by the drought there is a frenzy, a kind of madness in them all. So much so that little thought is given when an average man seemingly murders his family.
The story swings between Falk’s memories of the past and the trials of the present and never stops building. It is a story of misdirection, which leads you along a path that is entirely futile. That is the only thing I found a little disappointing, the ending wasn’t particularly clever, there was no great twist. It was just not what they were leading you to believe.
I’m trying not to give too much away because it’s entirely worth reading and to tell you the truth, I’m pretty desperate for someone else to read it so we can compare notes, because I think opinions on the ending will be quite divisive.
Apart from the vicious crime, The Dry is quite a light read, not heavy on description but rather more plot driven. Great to take on a holiday, or if you’re a commuter like me, one that’s fab for the trip to work – just difficult to put down when you get there!