Jaw-droppingly good from start to finish!
I’ve never read a Jane Harper book and since her other two are a series, I decided to start with her standalone novel. WOW. From the opening image I felt like I was right there in the dry, dusty Australian outback. We throw around the word “atmospheric” a lot regarding novels with strong settings but I’ve never read anything this evocative.
The story begins with a body being found, alone in the desert of a vast cattle ranch, near an old gravestone. We learn that the dead man is Cameron Bright, one of the Bright brothers who own and run this property. There’s no mystery how he died—no one can survive in this harsh climate for long—but no one can understand why he was there in the first place. His car is found ten kilometers away, in good working order, stocked with food, water, and emergency supplies as it always would be while working the property. Why did Cameron leave it, then go out into the desert to die?
What follows is a slowly unfurling, character driven drama from the perspective of Nathan, the oldest brother. We are drawn into the lives of the Bright family, their triumphs and sorrows over the years that have led to this moment. While this is certainly a mystery, it is mostly a family drama—and an excellent one. These characters felt like real people, the setting like an actual place. Despite the slow pace, or maybe even because of it, I was riveted. The ending was perfect—understated and satisfying. Basically: I loved it. This book will stay with me for a long time.
Five brilliant stars for this one.