The Dry by Jane Harper

Jane Harper ( is an Australian citizen of UK birth. Her 2017 novel The Dry won the Crime Writers’ Association Awards Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. The summary is as follows.

Melbourne cop Aaron Falk has reluctantly returned to Kiewarra, the remote Australian farming community he left as a teenager 20 years before, to attend the funeral of former best friend Luke Hadler. He finds the town almost unrecognisable, its inhabitants bitter, guarded and suspicious. The earth is like a tinderbox, animals lie dead in the fields and the rolling river where Aaron and his friends used to swim is nothing more than a dusty scar in the land.

It is believed in the town that Luke has shot dead his wife and son on their farm then committed suicide, consumed by despair. Aaron finds this difficult to believe. Local cop Greg Raco is also in no hurry to wind things up quite so easily. Aaron remembers Luke as ‘one of those kids with an easy smile and a sharp wit who could navigate the jungle law of the playground effortlessly . . . He was generous with his time, his jokes, his belongings . . . loyal almost to a fault’. The evidence is perplexing: ammunition cartridges that don’t match the ones Luke used, the couple’s baby the lone survivor — why spare her and kill their young son? — and Karen, Luke’s wife, apparently shot answering the door. Don’t husbands normally have keys to their own homes?

With enough to warrant further probing Aaron agrees to help out with the investigation. The problem is that Aaron himself left under a cloud, run out of town with his father 20 years previously after a teenage girl was found dead. At Luke’s suggestion, the boys had given each other alibis for the afternoon of Ellie Deacon’s death, and Aaron cannot help but wonder if his friend has been concealing a dark secret all along.

Harper’s narrative is spare, the pace is slow and sombre. Flowers of sweat bloom under armpits, tempers flare and the only respite is a cold beer, though the local bar is an edgy place at best. The two disparate cases seem linked, if only coincidentally, by handwritten notes left by Ellie and Karen, both pointing towards suspects (in Ellie’s case, Aaron himself). Aaron’s point of view predominates, and the reader is given access to most of his thoughts as he pursues his investigation. However, a sliver of doubt complicates the narrative — why did Aaron agree to give Luke a false alibi and is there something he is not revealing, even to us?

Transport yourself away from the soggy climate of Clydesdale in Springtime. Check if this new dusty dry and taut crime novel is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

352 pages in Little, Brown

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1408708170

Jane Harper

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