The Dry by Jane Harper

It’s been awhile since I read an Australian novel,  crime or not,  but this came to my attention via the 4-Mystery Addicts reading group and I followed through,  glad to say.  I think it’s probably written for Australian readers because there isn’t much information about the setting – a fictional small  town named  Kiewarra is just a very dry place a few hours away from Melbourne.   It’s totally appropriate to a crime novel.

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The Dry
by Jane Harper  (Australia) 
2016 /  336 pages
read by Stephen Shanahan  9h 46m
rating –  A-  /  crime  
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Four members of a  family of five are shot and killed on their old drought-stricken farm.  The lone survivor is a 3-month old baby girl.

Aaron Fawk,  now a financial detective in Melbourne,  attends the funeral of the family because the deceased include Luke Hadler,  his childhood best friend and the deceased owner of the farm.  In doing so Aaron  relives the times the two of them went through in high school when they were suspected of  killing a local girl.   Emotions run high now what with Luke’s death reviving the old animosities after all these years.  The parents of Luke ask Fawk to look into the new killings.

And Aaron is in luck because a guy named Raco is the newly hired and ambitious local detective.  But  although he’s sharp, completely professional, and a very nice guy,  he replaced a beloved old  man.  Both Aaron and Rick have found a good partnership for their investigations.

The book is nicely written,  the characters are complex enough for a possible series (not that I expect one) and the setting is generally a part of the plot what with the drought – but I suppose it could happen anywhere which adds to the interest.

The plot is moderately straightforward but and unpredictable who-done-it at the same time.  Who killed the Hadler family?  And where was Luke the day Ellie died?   The general impulse of the community is to blame Luke who is obviously a killer based on Ellie’s death,  but the girl’s father and uncle are pretty clear suspects and there are other suspects.

One difficult aspect,  but rather literary in a way,  is the time frame jumps from the current day and its investigation,  to the past when the neighbor girl died as well as to other times related to the current day family murder.    These back-story  jumps come suddenly,  being triggered by a conversation or a memory.   For instance,  Aaron has always had his doubts about Luke’s innocence, but nothing was ever proven –  so Aaron remembers bits of that day.

Overall a good listen and Shanahan’s narration adds a nice Australian touch.