The One with the Antipodean Heatwave

Jane Harper, The Dry (2016)

It’s hard to empathize with people in the middle of a heatwave when you’re in the middle of winter yourself, or is it only me? I can hardly fathom the temperatures that journalists report about the Melbourne tennis tournaments, and I couldn’t really feel the heat of the heavy atmosphere of this murder mystery set in the Australian countryside.

Expectations ran high, and it’s always a problem for me because I hope for a stunner and I’m disappointed if that’s anything less than.

Make no mistake, I enjoyed it and turned all the pages as fast as I could. It’s a small town atmosphere where people know each other from childhood on and have not forgotten, nor forgiven any missteps that anyone did ever since. People have only grown more bitter and more on edge due to the drought and heatwave that make tempers short and money scarce. Nothing grows in the fields, cattle have to be slaughtered for lack of food, and the river is no longer making a rustling watery sound in the background. When a farmer shoots himself after having killed his wife and son, only sparing his baby daughter, people whisper that he has been pushed to his limits, and then they whisper some more and suspect him to have been evil. They remember when a girl died in the river when he was a teenager and wasn’t he involved with her? The one who investigates is Aaron Falk, a policeman from Melbourne summoned to the small town of his childhood by the dead man’s father. And he, Aaron, is also suspected to have something to do with the girl’s dead.

The way the past and the present were interwoven is impeccable. I just wished that the middle part flew faster. That said, if you tempt me with another Aaron Falk mystery, I probably won’t resist long.

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