Getting this review in just under the wire! US pub date is tomorrow, 2/2/21*. And y’all should check this out! If mysteries and crime books are your thing. This is my second Jane Harper book. Previously, I’ve read The Dry and also have her sequel to that book and her other standalone, The Lost Man on my TBR. Just judging by the two books of hers I’ve read now, this is an author that knows her stuff. I also like the fresh perspective that comes from reading something that takes place in another country, in this case Australia.
*It is now 2/22 as of posting this to CBR. Whoops!
Unlike a lot of mysteries, this is one that is not told from the perspective of a cop or detective, but from a bystander to the crime, and to other traumatic events from the past. I think it’s all the more impressive that the book is so good, because I think it can be hard to pull that off, to make a narrative full of enough clues that it could be solved by someone who isn’t even trying, and to not make it full of improbabilities and coincidences.
Anyway, our main character is Kieran, who is visiting his hometown of Evelyn Bay for the first time in a long time in order to help his mother pack up their home (he has also brought his girlfriend Mia and their newborn baby, Audrey). His father has dementia and she can no longer manage him on her own; Kieran also hopes to convince them to move back to Sydney with him so he can be of more help to her. Evelyn Bay is a small seaside town recently discovered by tourists, and features a famous sea wreck that divers will travel worldwide to visit. The wreck is overlooked by a trio of statues the locals have dubbed “The Survivors,” and they are embedded in the ocean floor. When the tide comes in high enough, the statues are entirely covered by water.
Kieran hasn’t been home because when he was eighteen years old, a terrible storm caught the town by surprise and claimed the lives of three people: Kieran’s brother Finn, Finn’s business partner Toby, and a fourteen year old girl named Gabby. Kieran still blames himself for the accident, and he feels that deep down his family does, too, along with other locals. All of this is dredged up when another young girl is found dead on the beach near Kieran’s parents’ home. It seems unlikely that the two crimes would be connected, but the new crime continues to expose the past.
This was a bit slow to start, but once it got going I was hooked. I liked the atmosphere of the close-knit seaside town, and as she did in The Dry, Harper has a knack for writing stories about characters facing their complicated pasts and coming to terms with old traumas. She also seems to know small towns really well, and how they react under pressure, although here we’ve got an excess of wet instead of a plenitude of dry.
All in all, highly recommend this one, and hopefully I can get to her other two books later this year.