Jane Harper’s The Dry has gotten insanely good reviews. And I just don’t know why. It’s a fine book but there’s nothing outstanding about it.
Murder mysteries, like most established genres, have a pretty set formula. The Dry follows this formula almost to the letter. The mystery itself isn’t predictable (I didn’t figure it out), but the novel is.
Brutal murder shocks small town…check
Main character return to hometown for funeral intending to leave asap…check
Main character doesn’t leave asap…check
Aaron Falk was forced to leave town quickly as a teenager after being suspected of murder. Now he’s returned for his former best friend’s funeral, and is literally counting the hours until he can get back to Melbourne. Everyone believes that Luke murdered his wife and son before killing himself, but Luke’s parents beg Aaron to stay in town a few extra days and prove that Luke didn’t do it. Aaron reluctantly agrees, joins forces with the local cop, and faces his past while solving the mystery.
Harper does a good job of laying a trail of clues that keeps the reader guessing until the truth is revealed. It’s a solid case and the murder from Aaron’s past keeps rearing its ugly head to keep things interesting. There’s a satisfying conclusion, though it’s a bit depressing, which is only to be expected from a crime that includes the murder of a little boy. The weak point of the story was the budding romance between Aaron and Gretchen, which I really didn’t care about.
All in all, I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars. As I said, solid but not spectacular.