Source: Review copy
Publication: 7th February 2019 from Little Brown
He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.
Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that 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 choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
The Lost Man is an all-consuming, immersive read. Three brothers, one long term friend and hired hand. Each of them, in their own way, deserving of Jane Harper’s title. Harper’s novels are characterised by a vivid and captivating sense of place and in The Lost Man we are left in no doubt as to the brutal effects of being left in the harsh heat of the outback without succour.
This is a place where isolation takes its toll far too often and where small communities have long memories and do not easily forgive or forget.
In a place where your nearest neighbour may be three hours away, Jane Harper manages to pull off the feat of making the reader feel both isolated and claustrophobic at the same time.
The excoriating heat, dust storms and remoteness all wield a price on the inhabitants of the outback and its beauty is harsh and cruel.
In this vast, unforgiving expanse, Harper offers a domestic noir; a family mystery that explores the darker side of human nature and makes us consider family dynamics and nature versus nurture.
With striking dramatic prose, a strong and steady pace and a narrative that imbues every scene and every word with meaning, she paints a picture that is so thick with oils that you just have to take your fingernail and scratch the surface to see what lies beneath.
Rife with carefully plotted contradictions – like celebrating Christmas in arid heat and only days after a dead body is discovered, Harper manages to ensure the reader’s undivided attention as this compelling psychological drama plays out in front of our eyes.
I really enjoyed her first two novels. This one is a stand-alone, but it is, if anything, even better.
Verdict: Brutal, captivating, immersive. Her best novel yet.
Jane Harper is the author of international bestsellers The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her books are published in more than 35 territories worldwide.
Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year.
Jane was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight. She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.
Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.
On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.
Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008. She lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.