Dry (Harper)

The Dry 
Jane Harper, 2016 (2017, U.S.)
Flatiron Books
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250105608

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

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi.

Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke.

As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface and so do the lies that have haunted them. Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Manchester, England, UK
Education—B.A., University of Kent (Canterbury, England)
Currently—lives in St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia

Jane Harper is an Englisn-born, partially Australian-raised writer, now living in Australia. She is the author of The Dry (2016/2017), Force of Nature (2018), and The Lost Man (2019)—all crime novels set in Australia.

Jane was born in Manchester, England, but her family moved to a subrub of Melbourne, Australia, where she lived till she was six. The family then returned to England, and Jane attended the University of Kent where she earned her B.A., in History and English.

Her first job out of school was as a journalist (yes, she actually had to pass a qualifying exam). She first worked for the Darlington & Stockton Times and, later, as senior news editor for the Hull Daily Mail, both papers in Yorkshire, England.

But Australia beckoned, and in 2008 Jane returned to her early childhood stromping grounds, again working in journalism—first for the Geelong Advertiser, then in 2011 for the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

After she had a short story accepted for inclusion in the annual Fiction Edition of The Big Issue (Melbourne), Jane turned to fiction writing in a serious way. In 2014, she signed up for a 12-week online creative writing course. The story she submitted for acceptance into the program turned out to be the beginning of her novel, The Dry. By the end of the three months, Jane had her first draft of the novel.

Making this almost a fairytale come true, Jane felt confident enough to enter the novel's third draft in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. It won the $15,000 prize in May, 2015, and Pan Macmillan paid a non-specified “six-figure” sum for a three-book deal.

Jane and her husband live in St. Kilda, outside of Melbourne, with their daughter. Jane now writes fiction full time. (Adapted from the author's website and news.com.au.)

Book Reviews
“The Dry” is a breathless page-turner.... In addition to its constant recovery of forgotten facts and little clues, The Dry skips along on frequent changes of focus. Ms. Harper’s energy is so unrestrainable that she tears off in a new direction every time Falk or Raco begins seeing the case from some previously unconsidered point of view. What if the reinterpretation of a single word changes everything? (This actually happens. And if you enjoy being hoodwinked by writers in this way, you’ll love Ms. Harper’s sleight of hand.)
Janet Maslin - New York Times

Every now and then an Australian crime novel comes along to stop your breath and haunt your dreams…There is about The Dry something mythic and valiant. This a story about heroism, the sins of the past, and the struggle to atone.
Sydney Morning Herald

A razor-sharp crime yarn dripping in the sights, sounds and smells of the Australian bush…The storytelling is accomplished, with a bald sparseness to the writing that draws you in and characterization that rings resoundingly true…as the action twists and turns, the pace build[s] to a fantastic finale that will leave you breathless.
Australian Women’s Weekly

A tightly plotted page-turner that kept me reading well into the night…Harper shines a light on the highs and lows of rural life – the loyalty born of collective endurance in adversity, as well as the loneliness and isolation, and the havoc wrought by small-town gossip. She also explores the nature of guilt and regret, and the impact of the past on the present. In this cracker of a book Harper maintains the suspense, with the momentum picking up as it draws to its nerve-wracking conclusion.
Australian Financial Review

The Dry is a page-turner written with a maturity of style rarely seen in a first-time novelist and it’s here the writer excels. Harper’s exploration of the pressures of a small town where people are not able to escape the past is thoughtful and mature. Her plot twists and layering are intricate and subtle and keep you guessing to the end while the townspeople grow on you despite their dirty secrets. Harper’s well-executed final scenes are both filmic and tense, and sure to spark a few did-you-guess-it discussions.
West Australian

(Starred review.) [A] devastating debut.... From the ominous opening paragraphs, all the more chilling for their matter-of-factness, Harper, a journalist...spins a suspenseful tale of sound and fury as riveting as it is horrific.
Publishers Weekly

[A]n Australian best seller, but despite the critical acclaim it has received, this work fails on many fronts as a mystery: slow, tedious pacing; poor character development; lack of suspense or surprise (readers can spot the culprit and plot twist a mile away).... Because of the advance hype, crime fiction fans will want this. —Wilda Williams
Library Journal

(Starred review.) A stunner…It’s a small-town, big-secrets page-turner with a shocker of an ending…Recommend this one to fans of James Lee Burke and Robert Crais, who mix elements of “bromance” into their hard-boiled tales.

(Starred review.) A mystery that starts with a sad homecoming quickly turns into a nail-biting thriller about family, friends, and forensic accounting.... A chilling story set under a blistering sun, this fine debut will keep readers on edge and awake long past bedtime.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, our generic mystery questions can you in the right direction...then you can take off on your own:

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Thrillers

1. Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues in plain sight, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead readers astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

  1. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
  2. Are they plausible or implausible?
  3. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

  1. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
  2. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
  3. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
  4. Perhaps it's too predictable.
  5. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Are there certain passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing...or that somehow struck you? What lines, if any, made you stop and think?

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Why or why not?

(Generic Mystery Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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