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by Diane McCurdy

This is a book that would have made a better read last year. The Dry is about a relentless drought plaguing a small Australian town located a few hours from Melbourne. The lack of rain has made, “.......the whole place crazy.” the reader can almost taste the dust and imagine the crackling, dried brush as the merciless sun beats down making the folk edgy and tense. In this atmospheric thriller the desiccation assumes a status of a persona, a character. The parched landscape is integral to the denouement. Ironically I was reading this novel in a virtual pool of water as a tempest raged outside and mudslides and flooding abounded!

Aaron Falk, who is a desk-type police official in Melbourne, reluctantly returns to the place of his birth, Kiewarra, a neck of the woods from which he was banished years earlier. He has been summoned to attend the funeral of his one-time best friend, Luke, who has presumably killed his wife and son and then committed suicide. Luke's parents beg Aaron to stay and look unofficially into the tragedy that they feel their son would have been incapable of perpetrating. Begrudgingly he agrees and hooks up with a local lawman who has indeed found some discrepancies surrounding the case. Aaron's original hesitation is the result of the mysterious death of a teen-age girlfriend, Ellie, twenty years before. He is decidedly unwelcome as suspicions surrounding his involvement have never been resolved and there is palpable ill will directed toward him. Interspersed in italics with the contemporary drama are the events that happened long ago surrounding the death of Ellie.

The New York Times gave The Dry good reviews and it won a Victorian Literary Award. I was inspired to read it because of a short article in a weekly news magazine that indicated Reese Witherspoon had optioned the production rights and Reese has a really good track record having chosen well adapting Wild and Gone Girl. The Dry will make a better movie than it did a book. The film will be able to capture the suffocating aridity and the clammy sweat. The novel is Jane Harper's debut offering and I found some plot points amateurish and the inevitable twists that are mandatory in this type of writing were disappointing. Harper, however, is an author for our age. Having been a journalist for quite some time, she began working on The Dry as part of her assignment for an on-line writing course.