This is my favorite of Jane Harper’s four books. The setting is outrageous, and such a good place for something like this to go down, even more so because it’s a real place in the actual world and not, like, an alien planet or something. This is some ‘the year 2133 on Mars’ kind of shit, except it’s now and it’s Australia. I just couldn’t get over how they all live on this giant plot of land as big as my state, and our main character’s nearest neighbor’s house is farther away than my city to my mom’s (two hours by car). I mean, I live in the desert. It was 117 degrees here last month. And while reading this, I was still like, man! Get outta there! The sun is trying to kill you!
And, you know, an actual person kills someone before page one, even. As if they didn’t have enough problems.
Anyway, as vivid as the setting is, the story placed inside it ain’t too shabby, either. The book opens with our main character Nathan heading to meet his younger brother Bub at the infamous stockman’s grave (who died over a hundred years before, and whose headstone has become a local legend), where the dead body of their brother Cameron is lying. His car is miles away, and they can’t figure out how, or why, he ended up there. It’s days before Christmas, which will now include a funeral, and figuring out their shifting family dynamics now that Cameron is dead. And how his death illuminates some things that happened in their past.
I was riveted to this book. Not just because of the setting (which complicates everything, because in order to just survive the environment all the people that live here live by certain strict rules). I also really grew to love the characters. They have messy relationships with each other, and complicated pasts. The area is so remote it’s almost like a locked room mystery in the widest open space possible. It also has a lot of elements of family drama, but perfectly walked the line in terms of my preference for tone. I don’t need lots of drama and angst, only to be followed up by a depressing ending. At least, not right now. The ending I think is one of the reasons I’m rounding this up to five stars. But really, the whole book was great. Her best yet.