To start this post, I need to say a huge thank you to Grace Vincent from Little, Brown for inviting me on this blog tour. It's been so long since I've read a really good thriller, and 'The Dry' has been a brilliant change of pace from the other books I've been reading recently.
'It wasn't as though the farm hadn't seen death before, and the blowflies didn't discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.'OH HOLY HECK.
As soon as I read that opening sentence, I was HOOKED. I actually had to stop to gather myself, because it had an instant impact. Tell me that doesn't send shivers down your spine.
It's been two years since Kiewarra last had rain. For a town made up mostly of farmland, it's been disastrous. Crops are dead. Animals are getting put down because it's impossible to give them enough to drink. People are getting pushed to breaking point.
It seems like Luke Hadler was one of those people. A delivery man turns up on the doorstep of the Hadler's farmhouse with a package for Luke's wife, Karen, and is concerned when he finds the front door wide open. Stepping through, he finds Karen dead in the hallway, a gunshot wound to her stomach and a puddle of blood surrounding her. Luke and Karen's son, Billy, is dead in his bedroom, but their baby is still alive. Luke's nowhere to be seen.
He's found in the back of his ute a few miles away, the shotgun used to kill his family held between his knees, his face blown off.
Aaron Falk hasn't returned to his home town in twenty years. His friend Ellie Deacon was found in the river, her pockets filled with stones, but when investigators found a piece of paper with his name on it - Falk - in her bedroom, all fingers were pointed at him. Luke gave him an alibi: they were shooting rabbits together. But by accepting Luke's offer, Aaron gave him an alibi in return, and it still didn't stop the Falk family getting run out of town.
Now Luke's snapped and massacred his family, Aaron feels guilty. He should have pushed Luke to tell him the truth about where he was on the day that Ellie died, and now it's too late. Could Luke have killed her, and hidden his murderous tendencies until now?
Aaron plans on returning to Kiewarra for the funeral and getting out of there as quickly as he can. But when Luke's parents, Gerry and Barb, beg Aaron to investigate his financial records, he feels as though he can't refuse the wishes of his friend's parents. Aaron and Luke were so close that he was practically a member of the Hadler family, and he owes them that much.
But people in the town aren't willing to leave the past alone. Ellie's cousin and father are still living in the same farmhouse she once called home, and they're desperate to get Aaron to leave. Their land shares borders with the Hadler land, so could they have killed the family and framed Luke to be able to make more money from a sale?
Or could it have been Gretchen, Luke's ex-girlfriend, who he cared for less than Ellie and then abandoned as soon as his future wife came on the scene?
One thing's for sure, the crime has to have something to do with Luke. Karen was a good mother and a good worker, but Luke knew how to rile people. Luke was the centre of attention when they were kids, the leader of the pack, and Aaron knows that's something about Luke that can't have changed.
But with Aaron so caught up in the past, will he be able to discover the truth behind what's happening in the present?
One of the reasons I stopped reading thrillers and crime novels was because I was finding them so damned predictable. I could see what was coming, and I got bored out of my skull.
'The Dry' keeps you guessing. I really hope you're not allergic to fish, because the amount of red herrings sprinkled throughout is astounding, particularly when you get to the end of the novel and all of the loose ends are tied up. I'm not going to talk spoilers here, but just know this: I suspected four different people throughout the novel, but I didn't consider the person who actually did it for a second.
Come on, that doesn't count as a spoiler! Did you really think Luke Hadler had done it?!
It isn't just the plot that blew me away. Jane Harper is a wonderful author, writing nuanced and complex characters that shine - even if they're only alive for brief moments in one of the many flashbacks laced throughout the narrative.
This novel is a masterclass on pathetic fallacy. The arid descriptions of the endless heat raise the tension to breaking point, and it becomes almost impossible to read on. You know something is going to happen, but it's so difficult to predict that you can feel a knot in your throat as you become desperate to get answers, willing Falk and his partner Raco to make a break through in the case.
The intertwining plot lines - Ellie Deacon's cold case and the presumed murder-suicide - both get their time in the spotlight, neither of them getting neglected. To be able to tell two stories simultaneously takes skill, and Jane has boatloads of it.
I just wish it hadn't ended. It's a satisfying conclusion, but I was enamoured with the characters and I wanted more. It's not often that I want a standalone to receive a sequel, but I'd love to be able to read more of Falk. 'The Dry' film rights have already been acquired by Reese Witherspoon's production company, and I can't wait for the day that I'll be able to watch the drama play out on the big screen.
If you love thrillers, you'll love 'The Dry'. If you're bored of thrillers and want one to come along that will actually surprise you, you'll love 'The Dry'. If you've never tried thrillers before because you think they're all gratuitous violence and don't focus on crafting beautiful language and breathtaking descriptions, you'll love 'The Dry'.
I genuinely believe that this is a book that everyone should try. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did, and now I'm thinking I've just read one of my favourite books of 2017 within the first week of the year.
This is more than just a thriller.
This is an exploration of a country plagued by extreme weather conditions, written by someone who knows Australia well.
This is a look at how the past will always impact your future, in ways you couldn't even begin to imagine.
This is one of the most exciting books you'll read in 2017.
Based on how many emotions I'm feeling towards this novel, and the fact that I just want to DISCUSS DISCUSS DISCUSS, I'm going to write a more spoiler-filled review at some point next week. Keep an eye out for it going up.
I'm taking part in another two blog tours this week: one on Monday, one on Tuesday. Come back and visit to find out what books I'm going to be talking about then!