“In just a couple of years, Jane Harper has soared into the first rank of contemporary crime writers. The Lost Man… returns to the parched landscape she used to such powerful effect in her debut, The Dry… Three generations of women – the dead man’s mother, wife and daughters – struggle to come to terms with terrible events, and the family’s shocking history holds the key to this superb murder mystery.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
“At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.”
This is the third novel of Jane Harper that I have read and like the other two, I completed it in less than a day! It’s that good and that difficult to put down.
As in her earlier stories, the surrounding and the landscape are important characters in this one, set in the vast, dusty, blazing hot Australian outback where next door neighbours are a three hour ride away and survival depends on how well prepared you are to weather the always difficult, often unpredictably treacherous conditions.
Nathan Bright is called out to the stockman’s grave, a place that has given rise to a lot of local legends and ghost stories and at present is the site where his younger brother lies dead. He seems to have succumbed to heat and dehydration in the harsh climate, which isn’t a rare occurrence in those parts. But his car is found some distance away, well stocked with food and water and indications that he was headed where he said he was. Why did he abandon his car and how did he get to the grave where he died, a good nine kilometres by walk?
Nathan, who has never been forgiven or recovered from a grave mistake he made a decade ago, still suffers from the isolation that has imposed on him. Struggling for years to get to spend time with his son after a messy divorce and barely making enough money to get by, he is plagued by loneliness and afraid of his own thoughts, especially off late.
Back home to help his family deal with the aftermath of Cameron’s death, Nathan has to deal with both childhood memories and the secrets that tumble out of his brother’s closet, prompting him to wonder how well he knew him and what really is the cause of his death that is assumed to be suicide which isn’t uncommon where they live.
The USP of this story is the brilliant characterization of Nathan undoubtedly. He is someone whose vulnerability is so relatable. The tough guy who regrets his mistakes but has given up trying to make amends because no one is willing to forgive after years, the father who is unsure of how he should behave with his teenage son in the few days he has left with him, the son who feels helpless in the face of his mother’s grief and above all the man who leads a completely solitary existence not by his own choice.
The mystery is slowly unravelled with more focus on the family and their bonding with each other and Cameron. As the dust settles on everything and the temperatures continue to rise uncomfortably, the truth slowly emerges.
So much more than a mystery and so good!
Added 29th June 2020