While Jane Harper’s previous two novels have followed the same investigator, Falk, this is a stand alone novel about a family of ranchers in the Outback. Nathan Bright, Cameron and Bub Bright are three brothers, and Cameron now runs the old family homestead with Bub’s help. Nate left when he got married and tried to make it on his own land but it has been tough going – he’s divorced, only sees his son for the holidays, and his numbers are in the red.
Nate and Bub were going to see each other soon because it is the week of Christmas but the family reunion happens earlier than planned because they are called to the scene of Cameron’s death. His body was discovered near a local landmark/grave stone. The cause of death is obvious – he was alone outside without water in one of the most unforgiving climates in Australia. The why is much harder to understand. His fully stocked and functional vehicle is several kilometers away but there is no reason for him to have left it behind.
The further the novel progresses, the more Harper reveals about the real family dynamics, revealing things about their past as a family and as individuals, such as why Nate is so isolated, even in a place where neighbors are hours away. The slow study of the family and the characters as they dredge up the past was fascinating, giving answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. It was such an enjoyable read that the how of Cameron’s death becomes completely secondary.
I also could never imagine living in that kind of harsh environment so I appreciate how real Jane Harper makes the Outback feel. So far every novel I’ve read by Harper has been better than the previous one so I can’t wait to see what else she writes – she’s definitely on the auto buy list.