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This is a crime novel which grips from the opening chapter. Forget the grime-filled American streets, the bleak northern English towns. Here we have small town Australia, the town of Kiewarra, with drought on the farms and drought in the outlook of the residents.
Aaron Falk was brought up in this town and returns to attend the funeral of his childhood mate. The circumstances of his departure and the links to recent events in the town, form the basis of this grim tale. Here the prejudices run deep and memories of past wrongs are still vivid to the townsfolk. While Aaron is now a Federal Police Investigator, based in Melbourne, this visit is unofficial and he has no intention of staying or of looking deeper at the circumstances of his friend’s death.
His visit is intended to last one day, but at the request of an old friend who is not convinced of the cause of death, he stays. Childhood memories and current events show connections which Aaron cannot dismiss as coincidence. Are the three deaths really murder-suicide, and why was a young child left alive?
This is a first novel for Jane Harper, but the superb interplay of character, plot, past and present, is handled like a pro. She manages to weave images of drought through setting and characters. It is not a self-conscious construct, but a genuine feel for the land and the community. The unpublished manuscript was awarded the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Award.
I loved this book. It seemed to capture the unspoken feelings which are so much a part of Australian and New Zealand small towns. The pioneering forbears left us with a work ethic which results in unspoken acceptance of tragedy. Aaron Falk challenges this and I am left hoping for another story about him from Jane Harper.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
by Jane Harper
Published by Macmillan Aus