Book Club: The Dry

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Author: Jane Harper
ISBN: 978-1-74354-805-9
RRP: $32.99

The Dry is a gripping suspense debut by Australian Jane Harper, and it was captivating. With a debut this convincing Harper will be a name to watch.


Set in a small outback farming town suffering terribly through the drought we find that things are not always as they seem. The drought is taking it’s toll on the land, the town and the people so it’s utterly devastating when Luke Hadler, one of their own, turns a gun on his wife and child before himself. The murder/suicide rocks the small town of Kiewarra and brings Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk back for the funerals in a purely personal capacity.

Falk and Hadler were childhood best friends and they kept in touch, sporadically, after Falk and his father were run out of town two decades earlier. Hadler’s parents were like family to Aaron as a boy so when they ask him to look over Luke’s financials to see if he can see anything that looks suspicious he can’t bring himself to say no, and Luke’s dad has an ace up his sleeve just in case he’s tempted to say no.

A one night stay in Kiewarra to attend the funerals before heading back to Melbourne extended out to a couple of days, then to a week. Falk wasn’t welcomed back to town, not that he expected to be after the way things were when he left, but things were even worse than he would have imagined. He wanted to give it all up and leave on more than one occasion but felt he owed it to the Hadlers to see it through, and the more digging he did the more invested he got in the final outcome.

We find out early on why the Falks were run out of town and it seems there are still questions left unanswered from the past, and digging into the events of the present bring up those questions from the past.

the dry

Two time periods can be confusing at the best of times, and Harper hasn’t given the past it’s own chapters or even labelled it. The only way we know we’re jumping back in time is that the font changes and this worked beautifully for me. Events of the present would bring up a relevant event or memory from the past and we would learn about it right then. I found this method effective and captivating. It was often only a relatively short break in the present timeline and the flow was seamless.

This is a suspenseful novel with lots of interesting twists and unexpected turns. The seemingly cut and dried murder/suicide was maybe not so clear cut after all and the town that drove Falk out is hiding some pretty major secrets of its own. I don’t want to look at the storyline here because it would so easily end up a spoilerfest.

The Dry explores the harsh realities of drought stricken farming communities and the effect it has on the entire town. The money dries up with the fields which makes business difficult and the town needs to pull together; sometimes this works better than other times.

Falk is lucky enough to find camaraderie with a few residents who have moved to town in the time he’s been gone. They are fast told the history but they have no personal stake so manage to remain objective and manage to all work together on unraveling events.

All of the elements of The Dry come together beautifully in a compelling novel of secrets, betrayals and a small town torn apart by death and drought. I was captivated by the beautifully drawn characters, the harsh realities of the settings and the beauty of Harper’s storytelling. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of her work.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Dry so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

The Dry is available now through Pan MacMillan, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

Also, if you want to join the Pan Macmillan Book Club they send a monthly newsletter with their featured book club titles and a chance to win books, as well as links to discussion questions and exclusive content.

11 thoughts on “Book Club: The Dry

  1. I hope I am on this trial, the story line is a reality in Australia, and I’m sure this is an intriguing book. Sounds interesting and amazing!!!

  2. This book sound fantastic, I would love to be one of the first to read it. I enjoy books that move through different times and Australian authors are my favorites

  3. Jane Harper’s The Dry is a truly gripping suspense novel and one of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year. Arriving late last week, I was hooked from the Prologue and could barely tear myself away to sleep or feed my kids! The stark background of a drought ravaged country is expertly described and works as the perfect setting for unravelling mysteries and tragedies both past and present.
    Little fragments of the past are revealed piece by piece, as clues to the present day tragic events are uncovered, with some dead ends along the way. Twists and turns abound and things are not always as they seem. And always the heat, the bush and the river (or river bed) are a constant backdrop to the harsh realities of small town politics and prejudice, properties struggling to survive and people pushed to their limits.
    Harper’s evocative writing and masterful suspense make this a completely absorbing and unforgettable read. I

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace, Pan Macmillan and of course Jane Harper for the chance to read and review this stunning debut novel. I can’t wait to get my teeth into Harper’s follow up work!

  4. “The Dry” by Jane Harper is set in Australia and is centred around a murder suicide in a small town called “Kiewarra” that has been suffering from harsh drought.
    This particular small rural town certainly has big secrets that will come to surface as you read.
    Aaron Faulk an investigator for the Federal Police had left this town twenty years ago but ends up returning back to “Kiewarra” because of an intriguing letter he received.

    This is a very well written Australian crime novel where nothing is what it seems and where people can be very deceiving to who they really are. The writer gives your imagination a tremendous picture of the surrounding landscapes and sense of real life community in outback Australia.

    “The Dry” by Jane Harper entails an array of very believable and unique characters that makes this suspenseful crime novel hard to put down from the first page read.
    You can be assured this wonderfully chilling novel “The Dry” by Jane Harper will not disappoint you.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace for the brilliant opportunity to read and review “The Dry” By Jane Harper.

  5. Thank you beauty and lace, I really enjoyed reading The Dry by Jane Harper, this novel demonstrates not everything is as it seems in a small quite town, the long drought has taken a toll on both the land and members of the community in Kiewarra. Falk a Melbourne police investigator returns to Kiewarra for the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler his wife and child after a tragic murder-suicide.
    Falk is forced to face the demons of his past as the community does not forget what happened many years ago. He is confronted by the prejudicial nature the community, people are pushed to breaking point due to a lack of rain and drying crops. Harper links the past and present well as each fragment of the past is slowly revealed helping maintain suspense through the novel. The imagery created by Harper captivates your imagination and demonstrates the harsh reality of the Australian outback. This debut novel was gripping from the very beginning; I can’t wait to read her next crime novel.

  6. From the moment I first started reading this book, it’s not hard to feel saddened knowing that here is a small community town thrown into the turmoils of drought and the troubles that are caused.

    We begin in a small rural town of Kiewarra where of course, everybody knows everyone but in this town there are dark secrets and unknown lies happening. We find ourselves with a murder scene which is heart wrenching knowing that it involves a character called Luke Hadler, his wife and young son. There are no questions of who murdered them because everyone assumes that Luke has killed his own family due to the hardships of owning a farm. It happens.

    This is a novel that transports between the future and the past of 20 years before and we are reading of two murder scenes with no answers as to why, or how. In comes Luke’s friend Aaron Falk who lived in the area growing up but is now an investigator with the Federal Police. He has come back to attend Luke’s funeral as they were great mates.

    I found I could not put this book down, although in the first half of the book, I did find myself getting lost between the past and the present but once you visualise the different scenes, you stay on track.

    The story of Ellie was interesting on what actually happened to her, this is where I could not put the book down as I wanted to find the truth. Once you read to the end, the story of the past becomes clear on how a few of the characters entwine

    For a first novel written by Jane Harper, she has really captured the characters personalities and the landscape. I always know if I am reading a good storyline because I can visualise the scenery and characters so well. Even that pesky spider in Aaron’s room!

    This is such a captivating novel of “What has happened or who has done it?” It will keep you on the edge of your seat to the end. You won’t be disappointed with reading this book.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace plus Pan Macmillan Australia for giving me the opportunity of reading another beautiful novel. Absolutely love the cover.

  7. Thank you BeautyandLace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read and review The Dry.

    This first book by Jane Harper is a crime mystery story which was enticing from the beginning to the very last page. The story is so gripping, that I was sitting in bed, late at night and completely enthralled in the book, oblivious of the time!

    Wow, Jane Harper, you’ve described the sad plight of the farmer, farming family, country town, the drought, so well. I felt like I was walking in the town, going to the pub, feeling the dry heat, everything was well described and easy to understand. I also felt a sense of sadness from the characters, and some of it goes back to 20 years ago. There are stories within stories and that’s part of the charm and style of this book.

    This was definitely a thriller with a harsh reality storyline which sadly touches headlines in Australia, reminding us how the plight of current farmers can be. And it is a mystery book too, so good, that what I thought, wasn’t! So well done on that aspect.

    I loved the journey that this beautifully written book took me on. The characters are multidimensional, vivid, and even pull at the heartstrings.

    I recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a book which takes you on a thrilling, exciting journey of who done it, filled with characters who may or may not be who we think they are.

    I just have one question, when’s the movie coming out?

  8. This is a very interesting Australian crime murder mystery novel which I had a hard time putting down! The brilliant storytelling, intriguing characters and wonderful imagery all helped to maintain my interest.

    A wonderful read that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to others. Well done, Jane Harper! I can’t wait to read more of your novels!

  9. What a brilliant debut novel by Jane Harper! Hard to believe this book is from a new author.
    The storyline was incredibly gripping and I was hooked from the beginning.

    The Dry is set in a small Australian town ‘Kiewarra’ in the midst of a dry spell. The people of the town are all feeling the effects of this dry spell.
    We see Aaron Falk, police officer return to his hometown after the Murder/Suicide of an old friend and his family. The details of this event are chilling and I found myself feeling uneasy. Falk returns for the funeral but ends up staying on and things aren’t what they appear.

    The storyline goes between past and present and has an easy flow that kept me intrigued til the very end.
    The last few chapters had me on the edge of my seat and made me wonder why I don’t read more Crime novels?

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for Jane Harpers next book I have a feeling she will be one to watch especially if this is the quality of her first novel. Just amazing.

    Thanks again Beauty & Lace for a great review!

  10. I was so excited to receive this book as I absolutely love thrillers and suspense books. The Dry did not disappoint.
    It was Jane’s debut novel and I feel like she nailed it.
    The descriptions in the book made it feel like I was actually right there with the characters which is a great way to hook me in.
    I love how important things are told to us piece by piece so you don’t get too overwhelmed at once.
    I don’t want to give the plot away but if you want a fantastic thriller that you will not be able to put down then The Dry is for you. You will never believe it is a debut novel. Well done Jane and thank you Beauty and Lace and Pan McMillan for the opportunity to review this great book.

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