Written by Jane Harper
You know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, I almost did. I was in a hurry that day at the library, and decided to just grab the first four books I could find from my Goodreads list. My dog was in the car (it was cool out, don’t worry), and she usually likes watching people but that day she was stressed because I’d just returned from a long work trip. I was finishing up Christmas shopping but had to get home and wrap presents and clean and makde a pie for a work potluck. The Dry was the fourth book I grabbed off the shelf. Despite my resolution to grab and go, I paused. The book looked dark and heavy and I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for anything other than a Christmas read (which is quite similar to a beach read). I might have put this back if I hadn’t been so stressed.
What It’s About
Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns the small town where he grew up in order to attend a funeral for an old friend. Not only does the visit stir up old memories and resentments, it leads to his friend’s parents asking the Agent to investigate their son’s death. Was is suicide, as everyone seems to think, or was it murder? And can Falk keep the past at bay long enough to find out?
It’s hard to believe that this is Harper’s first book. This is a mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Pay attention because every word matters. The plot is tight and well-paced. There’s a tension to it, but it also feels lazy, like a hot, western summer. Falk is a wholely believable protagonist. He’s smart, damaged, lonely, and not convinced of his mission.
What I found most astounding was that this was a double mystery. You find out early on that Falk was linked to a girl’s death when he was a teenager. That death was ruled a suicide, but everyone in town thinks Falk was involved. That mystery contrasts with the death of his old friend Luke. The difference is that everyone in town thinks Luke’s death was a suicide. Harper had me hooked into both of these. Until the end, I wondered which of the suicides were actually murder. Or if they were both as they seemed.
I can usually think of something nitpicky about a book, but I’ve got nothing. I’m as astonished by that as anyone.
A crime novel isn’t something I’d think of as a five star book. To me, those are books that change you or make you think. The Dry isn’t going to do that. What it will do is put you in the town of Kiewarra, introduce you to characters that you could reasonably expect to meet on the streets of your town, and keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. The Dry is as well written as anything I’ve read. If you can pull yourself away from the story itself, you’ll notice that Harper gives a master class in fiction.
Her next book releases on February 6. If you need me I’ll be at the book store.