I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a mystery-thriller where a secondary character is murdered and the hunt for his killer does not guarantee—and likely will not include—a romantic Happily Ever After (HEA). What I did feel assured of in reading Jane Harper’s The Lost Man was a resolution to the mystery—an answer to the questions that had been assailing me from the first pages—and it hit me with the force that Harper likely intended.
Harper is a stand-out mystery-thriller writer, and The Lost Man is devastatingly powerful, a whodunit where the focus is pretty small—a household of family members and three employees—and the stakes are proportionately higher: the killer of Cameron Bright is someone they all know. Someone they still eat meals with. Someone who mourned at the funeral.
The expansive, isolated, brutal Australian outback is the setting for this story and the place of Cameron’s death. A beloved member of his community, Cameron is found dead on a sweltering hot Australian afternoon at the Stockman’s grave—the site of a local myth/ghost story. Initially his death looks to be suicide, but questions abound, and Cameron’s semi-estranged brother Nathan can’t help but try to answer them.
Harper is a stellar mystery writer and here she writes so intimately. Family secrets are exposed. Family grief is complicated by the weight of their shared drama. And someone in the house—someone who has been mourning Cameron’s death—is the same person who left him to die an extremely painful death at the Stockman’s grave. All the while we learn about this family, Harper is turning the screw tighter, heightening the tension.
For me, that’s the real thrill of Harper’s books: how exquisitely she captures her characters and their setting. You feel like to come to know them, even if there are some parts of their story you’d like to shy away from. And like Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, which blew me away earlier this year with Hannah’s absolutely incredible descriptions of the great wild, Harper portrays the Australian outback fantastically. It’s dangerous and beautiful. It’s a place where rules apply and people are punished by not following them, but the rules have been adapted by living in a place where most people wouldn’t/couldn’t.
As I tore through the pages of The Lost Man, I was reminded again and again of how talented Jane Harper is, how she makes the world her characters inhabit come alive in a fierce/dramatic/unputadownable way, and how I am not meant to live in the Balamara region of Australia. At all.
Q: Do you have a favorite thriller-mystery writer? One of my other favorites is Tana French. You have to read her if you haven’t already!
Content Warning below:
Rape. Physical & emotional abuse.
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Give me that HEA, please.
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