Review by Ben Hunter
Whether you read mysteries or not, Jane Harper’s The Lost Man is a superb novel from an author on the top of her game. You need to see what the fuss is about.
Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, is an enormous success. Since it was published in 2016, it has sold shed loads in every corner of the country and been published into the American and European markets – with Reese Witherspoon scooping up film rights. At the ABIAs, Jane Harper was double crowned as both Debut Novel of the Year and Book of the Year.
Force of Nature came hot on the tail of The Dry delighting fans with another extraordinary Aaron Falk thriller set against the relentless and terrifying expanse of the Australian Outback.
Now, 12 months later, Harper could easily have written another Aaron Falk book. Instead, she has chosen a different path. The Lost Man is a standalone novel, unconnected to her established and bestselling series. Stepping away from Aaron Falk was a potentially risky decision, but it’s a risk that has definitely paid off.
The Lost Man is Harper’s best book yet. Unremitting, claustrophobic, authentic and intensely psychological, this novel is the story of one deeply troubled family’s search for the truth behind a death on the land.
Once again, Harper has produced pages dense with the anxiety and violence that comes with life in the interior. In my opinion, this novel executes the tension created by the Australian landscape better than both its predecessors. The landscape is inescapable in every moment of this narrative – almost extraterrestrial nature, it affects every character the reader encounters.
The protagonist, Nathan Bright, is (much like Aaron Falk) weighed down heavily by past decisions which seem somehow to link directly to tragedy which has befallen him. Nathan’s desperate effort to salvage himself from an isolated and broken existence for the sake of his son is utterly compelling, it alone is worth reading beyond the hooks of the mystery at the centre of this novel. (And they are some very heavy-duty hooks!)
Then there’s everyone else – the boozy, rage-prone Bub and their distant mother, Liz. The dead man Cam’s wife, Ilse, their oddly behaving children, the embittered Uncle Harry and all the others who have a role in this strange and brutal place. I was fascinated by each one of them.
To go into more detail is to spoil the rewards you’ll find in this book. You will read this novel. Anyone who reads a page – even a sentence of the introduction – will be locked in until the last sentence. It’s an absolute pleasure to see Harper continue what she started with The Dry and now progress it to a whole new level. Even better that she now has a massive waiting audience to introduce this story to. They will in no way be disappointed.
The Lost Man
Three brothers, one death, a fenceline stretching to the horizon.
Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.
They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old, 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 Cam. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...
For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.
About the Contributor
Ben is a bookseller at Booktopia HQ. He reads a lot and writes a little. Cows are his spirit animal. He is an optimist. He loves pastry.