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Review of ‘The Survivors’ by Jane Harper

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

Jane Harper is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I will definitely continue to read everything she publishes. Each of her books has had a different setting in a different Australian landscape and they are so atmospheric and perfectly evocative of the setting. Her brilliance at conjuring the sense of place works to make her books thoroughly immersive. It is a real skill.

Harper is also brilliant at creating realistic characters with difficult pasts committing small wrong doings with big impacts. The crimes are believable and it is easy to understand how normal people end up in tricky situations. Harper is also very deft at peppering red herrings and misdirections throughout her books to get your mind working and make you speculate (mostly wrongly) about what might have happened.

‘The Survivors’ is set in a coastal town in Tasmania. It follows Kieran Elliott as he returns to his childhood home 12 years after a storm took the lives of three residents, an accident for which he feels responsible. A day after his return another person ends up drowned and this crime brings up lots of secrets from the day of the storm.

I really enjoyed this book, the characters are relatable, the setting is perfect and the ending is surprising, although it ends a bit abruptly and I would have liked to see reactions to the final revelations from more of the townsfolk. I felt it dragged slightly in the second half, but that may have been because I was so keen to get to the conclusion and find out what really happened. I liked the main character Kieran and his girlfriend, Mia and enjoyed reading about their relationship.

I would highly recommend this and Harper’s other books, particularly ‘The Lost Man’.

Review of ‘The Lost Man’ by Jane Harper

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I’ve really enjoyed Jane Harper’s two previous books, but I think this is my favourite book by her so far. Unlike her other books, this is a standalone self-contained story of a family and the mystery surrounding the death of one of three brothers. It’s an easy, quick, engrossing read with a satisfying, if a little neat, conclusion.

In common with her previous books, this book does a wonderful job of evoking the huge landscapes and isolation of the Australian outback. I’m not sure I’ve read another author who is so good at bringing to life the landscape of a place without resorting to long, boring, florid descriptions which take you out of the story. It is such a skill to bring the landscape to life so well while always writing in service of the narrative. I love reading her books.

I really warmed to Nathan, the main character in this book, who is able to acknowledge his flaws and bad choices while still seeming somehow noble and trustworthy. His son Xander is also a really sweet and likeable character. It is really intriguing following the two of them trying to unravel the mystery of the reason behind Nathan’s brother Cameron’s death and uncovering secrets at the heart of their family.

I’d highly recommend this and Harper’s other books.

Review of ‘Force of Nature’ by Jane Harper

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I read ‘The Dry’, Jane Harper’s first book in this series, earlier this year and really enjoyed it and found it an easy and engaging read, so I was excited to get the opportunity to read the next book in this series.

I found it had the same good and bad points as ‘The Dry’. 

Plus points: I think the rural Australian setting is a really great backdrop for a crime novel; it’s a refreshing change from the standard crime tropes such as gritty urban underworld or 1920s manor house. The writing in both books is very fluid and easy to read, short chapters and well paced. The books are written without gimmicks, in third person past tense, which nowadays is actually also surprisingly refreshing. I don’t know why so many contemporary books stray from this formula, it makes for such a satisfying way to read.

Negative points: both books suffer from same major flaw which is that there is one storyline/character which feels totally irrelevant to the rest of the story and therefore it’s obvious that that plot point/character must be central to the solution otherwise why would the author include it?

This major flaw didn’t stop my enjoyment of the books but it does mean that you don’t feel quite so satisfied when your prediction proves to be correct, as it was so easy the reach that conclusion.

I’ll definitely read any more books that appear in this series, they start with really interesting premises and are fun to read. I liked the premise of ‘Force of Nature’ which is ‘5 went into the bush only 4 came out, what happened?’ as a starting point, just as I liked the ‘did this crime that clearly happened one way really happen that way’ premise from ‘The Dry’, but ‘Force of Nature’ never managed to be quite so intriguing as this premise promised.

I’m not sure about the main detective character, Aaron Falk. His character didn’t feel entirely consistent with the previous book and his relationship with his new partner Carmen seems a bit forced. I think I would have been happier had there been a bit more crossover with characters from the first book to give his character’s personal life a bit more depth.

Overall I think both books are great and I look forward to reading any future instalments.