Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
I was (and still am) a huge fan of Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, one of my books of the year when it was published back in 2017. Her follow-up was Force of Nature, in which we moved from the drought-ravaged tight-knit farming community of Kiewarra to an outward bounds retreat in the rain-drenched forests of the Giralang Range.
The Lost Man is a lovely slow burn of a mystery, leaving you with the dust of the Outback under your nails. Jane Harper has a wonderful ability to evoke the essence of a place and here she really shows off that skill to magnificent effect. You really feel the atmosphere here, the dust-soaked landscape, the incessant sun, the constant knife-edge balance between life and death.
And the death here is one of those properly splendid whodunnits. A man is found next to a remote grave, a circle etched into the sand as he’s struggled to follow the meagre shade whilst slowly dying of exposure and thirst.
Why is he here? Why is a seasoned, experienced farmer, who knows the Outback like the back of his hand, miles from the safety of his car? What has brought him to this place with none of the essential survival equipment that everyone carries by default in this unforgiving environment?
The writing here is wonderfully atmospheric and the characters are beautifully realised and nuanced. The Lost Man of the title initially suggests the dead brother Cameron, lost in the wilderness, but as the story progresses you realise that it applies equally well, if not moreso to the other brothers, Nathan in particular. He’s the point around which the story circles, with flashbacks to earlier times giving glimpses into what drove him to his current lonely existence.
It’s a real character piece which doesn’t feel the need to rush and is all the better for it. The pace does pick up in the second half of the book, and I found myself engrossed, wanting to read just one more chapter as the layers fall away to reveal one of the most satisfying endings to a book that I’ve read for a long time.
The Lost Man is a standalone book which hints at links to the first two Aaron Falk stories, but is an entirely different beast and cements Jane Harper’s place on my list of authors whose books I’ll look forward to, and who I’ll nag you about reading. You have been warned.
Highly recommended. Just don’t forget to pack plenty of water. It’s hot out there.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper is published by Little, Brown and is out now. Many thanks to Caolinn Douglas(@caolinndouglas), Grace Vincent (@GraceEVincent), and Little Brown (@LittleBrownUK) for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the advance copy of the book.