The Lost Man by Jane Harper
I am a huge Jane Harper fan. Huge. Sitting alongside Kate Morton, Holly Ringland and Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper is not only one of my favourite authors, but she is one of my favourite Australian female authors. These women are who I look up to, their work is what keeps me going when my motivation waivers or my confidence drops. These are the women whose careers I respect and aim for and admire.
Jane Harper burst onto the literary scene with the 2016 best-selling The Dry, and then followed it up with the 2018 hit Force of Nature. These two titles completely changed how I see the Australian landscape, both the physical and the mental. The way that Jane Harper was able to capture the entire Australian psyche between the covers of her book is something well beyond my own comprehension. She managed to completely dissect and celebrate this country whilst reminding us of its power, its expanse and its unforgivable nature.
Unlike its two predecessors, The Lost Man does not involve Aaron Falk – the detective we were first introduced to in The Dry. Though I do love the Aaron Falk character (and ay have a slight crush on him that I don’t understand), The Lost Man completely held its own without him. Following the Bright family, we are taken the furthest into the Australian outback that Harper has taken us before where we are thrown right into the action with the death of one brother and the confusion and grief that brings his remaining two brothers.
What follows is a wonderfully descriptive mystery of figuring out how Cameron Bright met his demise way out near Stockman’s Grave. We are taken to the far corners of the Australian outback and introduced to the inner workings of a small, country town. Not only that, but the brilliant and suspenseful edge of the family drama that weaves its way through the book is in a class of its own. The Bright family’s dynamics are expertly examined, with the added intrigue and stress around what it is like for the farmers and property owners who are way ‘out bush’. The Lost Man grants us access to an Australian life that many of us will seldom know and with that in mind, Harper is educating us about our own people. And I love it. Harper’s writing brings more atmosphere than should be possible with the written word, proving for the third time around that she is absolutely a force to be reckoned with.
There is always a risk when reading a thriller, a family-drama or a mystery novel. I find that even if I am thoroughly enjoying the book, there is a niggling voice in my head wondering whether or not the major twist, the reveal, the conclusion will be worth it. I want shocking. I want unpredictable. I want to be saying, “Oh my god, yes.” When it comes to Jane Harper, however, there is absolutely no risk. The mystery stays with you right until the very last page, even when everything has been solved and sorted and pieced together. I finished this book with the same enthusiasm and excitement with which I started it, and that is rare.
Even though the descriptive language is constant, and for any other writer would be overkill, each and every sentence is necessary and relevant. Nothing is left behind. There has been a huge surge in the domestic/family drama and sexy thriller genre ever since Girl on the Train, but Jane Harper’s works stand completely on its own not only in the Australian market, but internationally as well. It is so rare that this country, its population, its vast land and its uniqueness are captured in a way that pays homage to its reality.
Enter, Jane Harper.