The Lost Man by Jane Harper Little Brown
He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.
Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.
Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
You know its going to be a good 2019 when a new novel by Jane Harper lands on your door mat. Would it be as good as her two previous novels The Dry and Force of Nature and I am pleased to report that yes it was.
First of all its addictive, from the very first page when Cameron is found dead at The Stockman’s grave you want to know exactly what made him walk to his death. Harper then proceeds to take us on a journey full of twist and turns, and a cast of characters who could or couldn’t have had a hand in his death and she used the most wonderful character of Cameron’s elder brother Nathan to tell the story.
Here was a broken man, haunted by a devastating divorce, father to a son he hardly ever saw and ostracised by the outback community where he lived. Thrown back together with his family it gave Harper the perfect vehicle to show us a family torn apart by grief, bearing the scars of a father and a husband who was both violent and difficult.
It was what made this novel stand out within its genre, it just wasn’t your typical thriller, it was more an examination of how life and the people in it can have such a devastating affect on individuals. I felt huge sorrow for Nathan, as he grappled with his own emotions, yet you could feel that underneath there were nagging doubts surrounding the death, that saw him dig deep into the families past, suspicion falling on nearly everyone.
Each family member dealt with the death in differing ways and I loved the diversity Harper injected as we too had to unpick motives, and actions to try and work out if it was murder. The revelations that unfurled were like little tremors until finally the earthquake, the truth, which shocked and surprised me as I am sure it will anyone who reads it.
What really struck me about The Lost Man was the wonderful insight into life as a farmer in outback Australia. It was and is a life that was totally isolating and lonely, your nearest neighbour over four hours drive away, no shop to pop to to buy the odd bottle of milk. It was a hard life that required special characteristics of its people in order to survive, magnifying their actions, and at times their desperation. The arid, dusty landscape and the unrelenting heat emanated from the pages and it gave the novel an unwavering intensity, heightening the drama which, at times I found quite chilling.
Once again, Jane Harper has delivered a first class thriller, that may not be action packed but will slowly wheedle its way inside your head, enthralling you from start to finish.
About the author
Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature. Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.