#AWW2021 “Some things had to be lived with.” Review of “The Dry” by Jane Harper

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Genre: Crime fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 02/08/2021 – 06/08/21
Rating: ★★★★


I finally got around to reading The Dry! It’s only been sitting on my shelf for four years!

This might have been a five star read for me if I hadn’t seen the movie first. I had hoped that I had forgotten all the major details in the intervening eight months but things started coming back to me as I read, including the identity of the murderer and how a seemingly unrelated plot point led to their discovery.

Despite all of that, this is a very well-written book. I’ve said before that while I enjoy thrillers, general crime fiction doesn’t work for me quite so much. This book does lean more towards the crime fiction, but Harper creates such a vivid picture of a small drought-stricken Australian town that I was drawn in. Lines such as “Falk bought three shirts, because the man seemed so grateful that he was prepared to buy one” felt like a punch to the gut.

The writing style, with flashbacks in italics intruding on the modern day narrative, revealed things at a great pace. The flashbacks are from a more omniscient narrator, providing us insight into the past of characters who are already dead by the time our main character arrives, as well as things that the POV characters would have no way of knowing. It all worked really well to keep the tension building.

I am definitely keen to check out more of Jane Harper’s work, particularly as I won’t have spoilers for subsequent ones the way I did from seeing the movie for this one. I can only imagine her writing goes from strength to strength.

This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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December 9 – Mountaintop Tragedy

Author’s note: this turned out rather darker than expected. I didn’t manage to include all then aspects not the prompt, but I think I was close enough.

Prompt: the main character is a 39 year old woman. The story begins on a mountaintop. The witness to a crime disappears. The theme of the story is: a journey.

It had been a hard slog to the top, but Rhiannon had to admit it was worth the effort. As she took in the view, she felt her muscles tingling as they began to relax. She still wasn’t entirely sure why her boss, Mrs Carlingford, had invited her to come mountain climbing with her, though she suspected it might have something to do with questions she had been asking about where some of the company’s funds were disappearing to. She liked to think she had integrity, but she was starting to think that an all expenses paid trip like this in exchange for her silence was a pretty sweet deal.

“Thanks for inviting me, Mrs Carlingford,” she said. She took a deep breath, and then continued, “I think I know what this has all been about and I just wanted to say…”

Mrs Carlingford reached out and grabbed her arm roughly, pulling her forward and making her slip on the snow. Her heart jolted; it was a long way down from here and she didn’t really want to find 8th how long it would take her to fall.

“You know, you really should have just kept quiet about the money,” Mrs Carlingford hissed, bearing down on her with teeth bared.

“I… what? Mrs Carlingford, please!”

“If the auditors come after me because of anything you’ve said, it could ruin me!”

“I know, and honestly, I can keep quiet about it, I swear! I hadn’t even said that much, the auditors would have nothing to go on as it stands right now, I promise!”

“Your face is far too honest,” Mrs Carlingford sneered. “Once they started asking questions, you’d be telling them everything.”

“No, I…”

“We’re the only two up here, you know. It’s going to be a terribly tragic story I have to tell when I get back down. You weren’t as experienced as you’d thought, and then climb proved too much. Towards the top you lost your footing and tumbled over the edge…

“I’m sorry, Rhiannon, truly I am. But a woman has to do what a woman has to do…”

“No, please…”

It only took a small flick of Mrs Carlingford’s wrist to throw Rhiannon off balance and for her to tumble over the rock face. Mrs Carlingford watched, satisfied, as Rhiannon’s body disappeared out of view. It w as a shame it had to come to this, she thought, but she really hadn’t been able to see any other option…