The Dry (Aaron Falk 1) by Jane Harper

Revisiting the past…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

the-dryKiewarra has been suffering from drought for a couple of years now with no sign of rain coming soon. The farmers are worried, many having to kill their livestock for lack of water, and the knock-on effects are being felt through the town. As tensions rise, a tragedy occurs – Luke Hadler shoots his wife and young son, and then kills himself. Or so it seems, but Luke’s parents can’t accept that their son would have done this awful thing. So when Luke’s childhood friend Aaron Falk turns up for the funeral, they ask him to look into it. Falk is now a police detective working in the financial crimes section in Melbourne. It’s twenty years since he was last in Kiewarra, when he and his father left the town under a cloud of suspicion after another death. Many of the townsfolk are unhappy to see him back…

I’m in the highly unusual position of being unable to find a single thing to criticise about this book! So get ready for a dull review – or here’s a better idea, skip the review and read the book instead.

The writing is great – Harper conjures up this drought-ridden and anxious community brilliantly, showing the deep connection between man and nature in a town that relies on its farmers for survival. There’s are some dark descriptions right from the start, with blowflies being the first to find the bodies of Karen and her little son, Billy, but Harper stops well short of being gratuitously gruesome – the balance is just about perfect.

Jane Harper
Jane Harper

I liked Falk as a character very much, so am rather glad to see that the book is listed as the first in a series. Although he had to face a terrible incident in his past, he hasn’t allowed it to make him either embittered or angst-ridden. He’s professional and intelligent and is someone I’d happily spend more time with. The new local policeman Raco, too, is a refreshing character – a happily married man looking forward to the birth of his first child, he treats people with respect and uses his brains rather than his brawn to get to the truth. And the characterisation is just as good of the other townspeople – from Luke’s grieving parents, to Aaron’s childhood friend Gretchen, to the people who still hold Aaron responsible for what happened back in the past – a whole range from nice to nasty, and each equally convincing.

The plot is strong and well-executed; the familiar device of a crime from the past resurfacing in the present feeling fresh because of the skill in the telling. Raco also has doubts about Luke’s guilt, because of a couple of things that don’t make sense to him. His main issue is that little baby Charlotte survived, and he’s convinced that if Luke had decided to destroy his family out of desperation, he’d have killed the baby too. So Raco and Falk team up, and as they investigate the current crime, the shadows of the past loom ever larger. Harper plants false trails all the way through – I freely admit that I suspected everyone in turn, but was still surprised by the solution. And yet it feels totally fair – all the clues are there and, when the reveal comes, it’s completely credible. Add to all this one of the best and most original thriller endings I’ve read in a long time, and you can see why I’m at a loss to find anything to grumble about.

I part read this book and part listened to it on the Audible audiobook version narrated by Stephen Shanahan. Annoyingly, I can’t fault it either! Shanahan’s narration is the perfect complement to the book. He has a lovely Australian accent, but not at all broad enough to be difficult for non-Australians – it reminded me a little of Pat Cash’s voice (*brief pause while FF swoons*). He doesn’t exactly “act” all the parts, but he manages to differentiate between the different voices. There is one Scottish character, and I was impressed by the accuracy of his Scottish accent.

the-dry-audioOne thing I really liked was that Shanahan used a “younger” voice for Aaron in the sections set in the past – a little quicker and lighter than the voice of adult Falk in the present. And, whether intentional or not, Harper also made this an easier listen than some audiobooks, by calling the young version Aaron and the present version Falk throughout, which was a huge help in clarifying which period we were in. On the printed page, the past sections are in italics, but of course, this is no help when listening. It would be great, now that audiobooks are becoming such a big thing, if more authors thought about how to differentiate for a listening audience as well as a reading one.

All-in-all, a brilliant read and an excellent listen! I’m enjoying the read/listen experience in general – a good narration adds another level to the characterisation and for books set elsewhere it also means you get the correct pronunciation of place names and so on. Expect to see this one turning up in my annual awards at the end of the year, but don’t wait till then – grab it if you can!

Since I couldn't track down a pic of Stephen Shanahan, here's a gratuitous Pat Cash pic instead...
Since I couldn’t track down a pic of Stephen Shanahan, here’s a gratuitous Pat Cash pic instead…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group Ltd., and the audiobook was provided for review by Audible via MidasPR.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link
Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

70 thoughts on “The Dry (Aaron Falk 1) by Jane Harper

    • Haha – but so dull! Thank goodness I don’t often find nothing to criticise… 😉 I hope you enjoy it too – I was worried because I’d seen so many rave reviews, but this is one that I felt actually lived up to the hype for once!

  1. Pat Cash? Really? Surely Mark Philippoussis?
    By the way, I was at a seminar yesterday where they were talking about answering tough questions and recommended ending with a top-spin – and guess who they had in the image to illustrate that? Yep, Rafa!

    • Oooh, well, yes – Mark’s got a lovely accent too! 😉 But Pat and me go waaaaay back – I remember the days when his earrings were actually quite daring… Ah, if only more people would realise the joy that gratuitous images of Rafa bring, the world would be a better place – I might even have managed to stay awake during that seminar then…

  2. WOW! is this a first for you – no criticism? I loved ti read – could see it playing out in my head – even could visualise characters . I have heard from others that the audio book is great too. Did you get a good idea of Australian small country town from this read?

  3. You’re now the third person I trust to tell me to read this book, FictionFan. It really does sound like a fabulous story, and a suspenseful one. For me, the setting is a plus, too. OK, I shall have to bow to others’ will and sneak this onto my TBR.

    • Hurrah!! I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this one too, Margot – good characterisation, good plotting and an interesting setting. I was glad to see it’s billed as the first in a series – looking forward to meeting up with Aaron again sometime… 🙂

  4. So glad you loved this one!! It’s one of the best debuts I’ve read. I also love audiobooks when I can find a good narrator…they really make or break the listening experience in my opinion…I’ll have to look out for books by Pat Cash it sounds like:)

    • It’s great, isn’t it? And so nice when a new series begins that you know you’re going to look forward to (as if I didn’t have too many series on the go already! 😉 ) I’ve really been enjoying audiobooks recently, especially the part read/part listen thing. But the narrator can really make or break it, so I spend a lot of time listening to the samples before deciding – my abandonment rate for audio is far higher than for printed books…

  5. Glad you enjoyed The Dry, FF. Although I had a couple of minor niggles about plot, I also thought it was a compelling read. Your Pat Cash reference as an example of a pleasant Aussie accent made me smile: until I spent two weeks in the USA recently, I didn’t even know I had an accent!!!
    BTW, I went to school with Pat Cash’s sister…

    • I’m a totally unfair reviewer – if I’m really enjoying the setting or the characters I’m willing to allow a lot more leeway in plotting, and pass over things that I’d blast in another book. But if I get bored, I get picky and hypercritical… 😉 Haha! I love all the different accents and all the different versions of “English” we all use – and I do love when the publishers take care to match the right voice to the story, as in this case. What?!?!? *swoons and falls off chair* Did you ever meet him as a young’un? *hurriedly eats some medicinal chocolate*

      • I remember going to parties at the Cash residence; they had a great place with tennis courts (natch!) – perfect party venue. I think I did meet Pat (he was already a rising star by then) and I have a vague recollection of him being a nice guy. But sporting prowess was never up there on the list of things that impress me much, which explains why the encounter wasn’t more memorable.

        • Oh… *blushes*… yes, of course, it’s his “sporting prowess” that I’m attracted to. Well, that and his gorgeous smile… do I win the award for Shallowest Blogger of the Decade now?? 😉

    • I try to avoid telling people they must read a book – but you must read this book! 😉 Seriously, I do think you’d enjoy it too – good characters, great setting and a strong plot…

  6. This book is definitely on my list and I’ve heard really excellent things about it. Seems that others, like you, have produced ‘dull’ reviews of it. LOL

    I enjoy the read/listen combo these days. As you mentioned, the place names are correctly pronounced, etc. I’m suspecting that THE DRY will appear on a lot of award lists. Looking forward to it!

    • Haha – thank goodness I don’t love every book or I’d have to give up blogging… 😉 This is one I’m pretty sure you’d love too, Kay – I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the glowing reviews I’ve seen of it, but for once I think it actually does!

      I’m getting into the read/listen thing more at the moment. I find listening to an entire book quite hard – it takes me ages for a start – but swapping between them, I find each enhances the other… so long as the narration is right for the book, as in this case. Hope you enjoy it, whichever format you go for! 🙂

    • Ooh, I’m quite jealous that you’ve still got that pleasure to come – hope you enjoy it as much as I did! I think you will – it’s one of the ones that actually lives up to the hype, I think… 😀

  7. If this one is as good as your review paints it, it must be a wonderful read! Thanks, FF — ’tis nice ending the week on an upbeat note, isn’t it?? You make some valid points about the audio versions, too — something we writers should keep in mind.

    • Definitely one that lives up to the hype, I think, Debbie! You know, that’s a good point – I tend to shove the books I didn’t like too much into the Friday slot ‘cos my blog usually doesn’t get so many visitors on Fridays as at the beginning of the week, but maybe that is a bit of a downer for the weekend… hmm, I shall give that some thought! Yes, it was because this book did it so well that I realised what a difference it makes to listening if it’s easy to work out when the book has slipped into the past…

  8. Have you just been eating a lot of chocolates today, or have you just been given a big box of same – unremitting pats and praise in all directions? What has happened to your inner Nick Kyrgios?

    • I’m deeply worried because I was writing another dull, uncritical review last night – I need to read some awful books soon, or my red pencil will become permanently blunt! Maybe I should re-read Moby Dick…

  9. I’m really annoyed now as I was offered a copy of this book but turned it down and I clearly made a huge mistake. It’s good to hear that the audio narration is faultless too for those who prefer listening.

    • Oh, I thought it might still be on Vine for All but sadly it seems to have disappeared. Definitely one worth snaffling if you get a chance sometime though! Yes, a good narrator really makes all the difference – I find some books hugely dull to listen to and it’s all down to how well the narrator holds my attention – or doesn’t!

  10. I saw this talked about somewhere or other earlier in the year, it made its way onto my 2017 books I want to read list. Glad you enjoyed it so much, fills me with confidence that I’ll enjoy it too

    • It definitely deserves a place on your list – I’m really picky and critical about contemporary crime, so if it got past my defences it must be great… 😉 Seriously, though, I hope you do enjoy it as much as I did!

  11. The Dry is on my list. Sadly, there have been quite a few family murder-suicides in the news recently which have devastated Australian farming communities where everyone knows everyone else, (without knowing if that is what happened in this plot). Looking forward to reading this, and am thinking about trying the audio book too.

    • I can’t say what happened, but that certainly plays a part in the story. I must say I thought she gave what felt like a very realistic picture of a rural town in the midst of a long drought – she neither minimised the effects nir went over the top with it. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it as an Australian – and what you think of the narrator! There’s something very attractive about a nice Aussie accent…

  12. Both storylines were great, I really liked the tragedy of the past one. I think the present’s resolution wasn’t as thrilling as I would’ve wanted. But the setting was ❤

    • I liked the resolution but I suspect that’s because I’m fed up with big twists and superhero endings, so this one, which felt quite credible, worked for me. The storylines were both great – again credible – and I loved her writing style – can’t wait for the next one… 🙂

  13. Raving reviews are so difficult to write! 🙂 But this one was absolutely not dull! I like that the telling brought a fresh edge to the story, sometimes I am disappointed when I find the same plots, ideas or characters too similar. Great review!

    • Aw, thank you, Donna! 🙂 Haha! I know – if I loved every book I’d have to give up blogging – I need something to complain about… .) Yes, so many books follow the same format these days they can feel a bit samey, but the quality ones still stand out, like this one!

  14. I have been seeing this book around but was still hesitant about reading it. I am now convinced. Brilliant book for what sounds like a fantastic thriller.

  15. So I’ve read/skimmed a number of reviews of this book and successfully maintained my stance: I’m not a fan of crime novels/insert various other reasons why I shall not be adding this book to my list. All good.

    And then you go and say straight out that you can’t find anything to criticise so of course, I HAVE to read the rest of your review and now I HAVE to read the book. In fact I WANT to read the book. Not only does it finally go on the list – it goes on the list of Books That Simply Have To Be Read Because FictionFan Tells Me So.

    See the power you hold?

    Time will tell…. will it stand up to the hype? 😮


    • Yes, we’re doing great in tennis – not just Andy, but Jamie too. Haha! Gratuitous tennis pics ought to be compulsory! 😉 Loved this one – one of the books of the year, for sure…

  16. Me again. Crimeworm’s pertinent comment gave me a jolt: I was so caught up in your review of the actual book that I totally failed to comment on the even more important aspect of this post – tennis. Rafa you can have. Pat Cash is probably much too old for you. I’ll have him 😐

    (And Hurrah for Murray!)

  17. I know another one of my blogger buddies reviewed this one because the plot sounds familiar. I’ve been doing more audiobooks myself, lately. There’s something about being too tired to read but still listening to a book in bed in the dark that pleases me. I can’t listen while driving, though, like many people. I’ll miss either plot points or red lights, and my bookish nature tends to not want to miss plot…

    • I used to listen a lot while driving, but usually re-reads. I find it hard to listen to a whole novel – I miss things and it’s much harder to backtrack on audio. But doing the read/listen thing has been fun, and I like listening to short stories or books I already know well. It’s a whole different skill set than reading, I find…

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