Rosie’s #Bookreview of Cultural #Thriller Set In #Australia THE DRY by Jane Harper

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)The Dry by Jane Harper

4 stars

The Dry is a crime thriller set in Australia.

Aaron Falk, a federal police officer, arrives in Kiewarra, a drought stricken rural town, for the funeral of his school friend. It has been twenty years since Aaron left. The heat is oppressive, the land dry as tinder and the people are angry about the effects of the drought on their lives.  Luke Hadler, his wife and son are dead. The evidence suggests that Luke killed his family, then turned the gun on himself. However, not everyone believes the verdict. Luke’s baby daughter was left untouched. Falk also has his own problems, as he finds himself unwelcome in the town; twenty years ago he was a suspect in an unsolved drowning and people in the town have long memories. He plans to only stay a day, but Luke’s parents ask him to look at the case again. Instead he finds himself helping the local police and once again facing angry accusations.

The setting and atmosphere were so well-written: the strength sucking heat, the lack of water and the despair all felt tangible. I pictured myself right there in the dust, thirsty for a drink and deeply saddened by the human struggle to survive in such conditions. On top of this were the appalling murders in a community where few could keep secrets. They touched everyone and moved me as I read the story.

The unravelling of the murders was good, with plenty of twists, but for avid readers of the genre it might be easy for them to spot the culprit. I didn’t mind the slow pace of the investigation as clues were unpicked from the complex story sewn into the community. For me it was the harsh baked dry land that will stay with me for a long time.

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Book description

A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

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#6Degrees Of Separation Book Challenge From The Dry To Convicts In The Colonies

My May #6 Degrees Challenge

Hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite And Best The idea is to start at the same book as other readers, then find themes that link six books, and see where you end up!


The starting point for May is The Dry by Jane Harper.

The Dry is a crime thriller set in Australia.

Aaron Falk, a federal police officer, arrives in Kiewarra, a drought stricken rural town, for the funeral of his school friend. It has been twenty years since Aaron left. The heat is oppressive, the land dry as tinder and the people are angry about the effects of the drought on their lives.

This book has been on my TBR list for a while, so I was pleased to move it up to the top in readiness for this month’s challenge. What drew me in to the story most, was the vast dry land and how it moulded the lives of those who tried to survive in it.

It made me think about this next book, one I’ve yet to read but it has come highly recommended. My link is small-town life.


The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat. Set in 1970s small-town Australia it centres on Tanya – an unhappy child, overweight, bullied at school and trying to cope with her mother who has been devastated by a series of miscarriages. Her father loves her, but he doesn’t cope either, seeking solace far too often in the local pub, and her grandmother, Nanna Purvis, is a hard woman, although her kindness shines through as the novel progresses.

Tanya’s life gets better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

Family secrets keep my books linked as we move on with my next choice and one I’m sure you’ve all heard of.


The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. A saga spanning three generations of a family who survive in the harsh Australian outback. Mixed with it are the loves and losses of many of the characters, including a long and forbidden love for a beautiful Catholic priest.

If you can recall the story, there is a part of it that takes place in Queensland’s sugar cane plantations, and I thought about that when I chose my next book.

My third link is to the sugar cane industry.


Sweet Bitter Cane by G. S. Johnston. This is an historical family saga.

The story begins in Italy during 1920. Amelia is getting married but her brother stands in as proxy, because Amelia’s husband lives in Australia. Wishing to escape from the limitations of village life, Amelia agrees to set sail for Queensland as a mail order wife. Upon her arrival in Brisbane, Amelia is disappointed when Italo, her new husband, is not there to meet her. This is her first experience of being second-place to the mighty sugar cane crop. The author paints a great picture of the landscape and the hardships of the times. I thought the characters were well-written with a depth which made them believable.

The story was a memorable one, once more showing man’s fight for survival, in a land which still draws new comers. This brings me to my next book.

For my fourth book I chose emigration and The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett.


The Tides Between is a young adult historical fiction novel. Set in 1841 it is about Bridie and her family who are emigrating to Australia from London. The story takes place on The Lady Sophia, a ship bound for Port Phillip near Melbourne. Fifteen year old Bridie, her pregnant mother and her step-father travel in steerage (low cost travel for the poor), where they meet others looking forward to a new life down under.

Bridie’s father died less than a year ago; her family believe Australia will offer new opportunities for employment and a better life than the one they lived in London. But Bridie is frightened and sad about how easily they can leave the memories of their old life behind. Others on the boat are also hoping to escape the past; Welsh couple Rhys and Sian have their own secrets. Natural storytellers, they offer Bridie friendship and understand the stories her father once shared.

It was a book full of hope with brave people heading to the unknown. Which brings me to my next choice, a book with more of a recent setting, but still in Australia.

My fifth book has three more travellers heading to Australia. Red Dirt by E.M. Reapy.


Red Dirt is the tale of three young travellers who have gone to Australia to escape the Irish recession. They are full of hope, wanting to experience a better life, but reality throws obstacles in their way. Plus they face temptations and events which cause acts of desperation.

That desperation follows some of the characters found between the pages of my last book. Men, women and children sent to Australia as punishment for crimes they had committed.

My final book is Convicts in the Colonies: Transportation Tales from Britain to Australia by Lucy Williams.


A non-fiction book, it covers the eighty year period from 1787 to 1868 when 168 000 convicts from Britain and Ireland were sent to Australia. This is a collection of tales about those transported; their reasons for transportation, their journeys and whether they died, survived or thrived in the harsh environment.

If you would like to take part, the starter book for June (Posting June 1st) is Murmur by Will Eaves

#BookTwins If You Liked The Dry by Jane Harper, you might like The Silent Kookaburra by @LizaPerrat

Book Twins

“If you read … you’ll like …”

When you’ve read a book, do you sometimes find yourself thinking “oh, that really reminds me of *insert name of another book*”?

Welcome to a new feature, in which my team and I make reading suggestions based on your favourites, be they classics, or newer best sellers.  Our recommendations consider not just genre, but writing style, plot—and that ‘feel’ you can’t quite put your finger on.

This week’s choice is from team member Cathy:

If you liked The Dry by Jane Harper, then you might like The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat


The Dry is set in small town Australia as is The Silent Kookaburra. They both benefit from strong characterisations, an atmospheric setting and sense of place. Both deal with family secrets and multiple issues.

The Silent Kookaburra opens with Tanya packing up her parents’ home after their deaths. An old newspaper cutting her grandmother saved brings memories rushing back and, despite her uneasiness and resistance, pulls Tanya back to the sweltering summer of 1973 and her eleven year old self. The story is narrated from Tanya’s perspective in the third person. She is overjoyed at the birth of her baby sister, after multiple miscarriages suffered by her mother. The family, along with Nanna Purvis, live in Gumtree Cottage, Wollongong, a small town in New South Wales.

Written extremely well with wonderful, distinct characterisations and incredible imagery, this is a poignant story driven by cause and effect, the characters’ reactions completely convincing. Dealing with sensitive subjects, abuse, post-natal depression and grooming amongst others, it’s sometimes difficult to see things through Tanya’s eyes. There’s so much she doesn’t yet understand or isn’t able to express but the reader can see where certain situations are heading, sharpening the suspense and the sense of danger, while dread of the likely end result builds.

It wasn’t hard to become immersed in the story, the sense of time and place is intense and the mindset and attitudes along with dialogue are completely believable. I love Nanna Purvis’ hilarious misuse of words and strongly held opinions. One unanswered question has haunted Tanya ever since that summer. The narrative ends where it began, with Tanya at her parents’ house as the story comes to a completely unexpected and shattering conclusion. Liza Perrat’s descriptive, assured prose and story-telling skills make this a compelling and evocative read.

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What psychological suspense novels have you read, that these remind you of?