...opens with an image so disturbing it lingers for days... Harper’s debut, The Dry, centred on the horrific murder of a family in a hot, remote Australian town. Her follow-up, Force of Nature, moved the setting to the bushland, where a woman goes missing on a corporate retreat. The landscape of The Lost Man is even more hostile, even more alien and beautiful, as Harper deftly manipulates her small but fully realised cast to a conclusion that chills, despite the outback heat.
The Lost Man doesn’t beg for your attention or force the pace; there is nothing flashy or frenetic, no high-concept premise or jaw-dropping (and ultimately incredible) twist in the tail of its carefully constructed plot; it slowly and carefully draws you into a completely believable, meticulously imagined world, and the thrills it delivers are heartfelt and human, and all the more powerful for that.
When Cameron Bright is found dead from dehydration beside a local landmark, 9km from where his well-stocked Land Cruiser is parked, everyone is baffled. The assumption is suicide, but older brother Nathan – ostracised by the sparse local population for reasons that become clear as Harper spools out his backstory – isn’t convinced. After an uncomfortable return to the family home, he discovers that the rest of his family have secrets to hide … Fabulously atmospheric, the book starts slowly and gradually picks up pace towards a jaw-dropping denouement.
The Lost Man is a tale of “loneliness, grief [and] rebirth”. Like its precursors, The Dry and Force of Nature, it is a gripping mystery that drips with atmosphere (and sweat). This time, though, Harper has added an emotional heft that is deeply moving. It is her best book yet.
In just a couple of years, Jane Harper has soared into the first rank of contemporary crime writers. Her third novel... returns to the parched landscape she used to such powerful effect in her debut, The Dry. A weather-beaten gravestone marks the boundary between two cattle farms in Queensland, its inscription recording the solitary death of a stockman in the 1890s. Now the body of another man lies beside the stone, with marks in the dust speaking of his futile attempt to find shade. The man owns one of the farms and suspicion falls on his brother, whose business is facing ruin. Three generations of women — the dead man’s mother, wife and daughters — struggle to come to terms with these terrible events, and the family’s shocking history holds the key to this superb murder mystery.