For some reason lately I’ve read a few books with a double mystery plot – a current mystery and a flashback or historical mystery – and some work better than others. The Sherlockian was fun because of the historical context and because it gave me more opportunities to picture Benedict Cumberbatch in a deerstalker hat. I also just finished an advanced copy of Ill Will (review to come) by Dan Choan, which was dark as hell, twisty and disturbing because … well, Dan Choan.
The Dry, a new novel set in Australia from Jane Harper, takes this same trope. The new mystery – Luke Hadler, a farmer from the small community of Kiewarra, kills his wife and son and then himself, presumably because of financial problems due to a seemingly unending drought that is killing the crops, animals and community. His childhood friend, now a federal police officer, Aaron Falk, returns for the funerals and is asked by Luke’s family to investigate what does not make sense to them.
From here we find our second mystery – the one that has driven Aaron away since they were teenagers, the suspicious suicide of a young girl who was Luke and Aaron’s friend. At the time, Aaron was accused (by the town, not legally) of killing her and making it look like a suicide because of a note left in the young girl’s clothes.
The Dry is dark, for sure, it’s hard to kill a child and retain a light tone obviously, but it is a page-turner. Both mysteries are compelling, as are the pitchfork waving townspeople and the graphic and vivid portrayal of a dying, drought ravaged landscape. I read this in about a day because I just wanted to know what happened, which is precisely the point of a book like this.
The Dry – Grade B+