Book review – The Dry

Regular readers will know that I appreciate a good thriller.  The Dry (2016), by first-time and Melbourne-based novelist Jane Harper, seemed like a good bet by the glowing reviews.

The Dry is set in a backwater, five hours’ drive from Melbourne.  Tensions are high in the small farming community, owing in part to a seemingly never-ending drought.  Tensions rise yet further on the murder of the Hadler family (who knew, eh?).  The funeral finds our protagonist, federal agent Aaron Falk, and old friend of the supposed murderer/suicide victim, hoofing it from Melbourne to the town where he grew up.  Despite being an unwanted guest to many, Falk sticks around to conduct an unofficial investigation of the crime.

The words ‘federal agent’ may lead you to think that we have some form of super cop on our hands.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Falk is a mild mannered guy, used to dealing with financial crime, rather than fist fights and gun battles in the street.  In fact, Falk seems like your average guy, which perhaps is part of his and The Dry’s appeal.  The book moves and unfolds at pace – I read it in just over a couple of days – driven by dialogue rather than detail.  That’s not to say that you don’t get a sense of the characters and their environment; you do.  I think however that the book could have benefited from a little more detail and description, something closer to what you might find in a Mo Hayder novel.

As is often the case with thrillers, an historical plot unfolds in parallel with the main one.  In this case the sub-plot surrounds the reason why Falk isn’t welcome in all quarters.  It’s a good story and provides further colour to our protagonist.

There’s enough twists and turns to keep readers engaged and I found myself wanting to know more about Falk and what his life in Melbourne looks like.  So I recommend The Dry and look forward to reading Force of Nature, Harper’s follow-up, which has recently been published.