Imagine a whodunit without a detective, or an investigator of any sort, for that matter. Take a family of three brothers, their mother, one wife, two young children, and a long-time hired hand. Now, one of the brothers has died. Did he commit suicide? Or was it murder? And if it was, who did it? Was it someone in the family . . . or a woman out of the murdered man’s past? Yes, this is a mystery as puzzling as you’ll find in any detective novel. And Jane Harper tells the tale beautifully. The Lost Man is a truly outstanding murder mystery.
Cameron Bright has died of dehydration, sprawled over an isolated, ancient grave in the outback. He owned and managed an enormous cattle station, with a herd of several thousand cattle roaming over hundreds of square kilometers in the Queensland desert. So it’s hard to understand how such an experienced cattleman could have wandered so far from his car. He must have known death was inevitable in the 113-degree heat. But Cam’s older brother, Nathan, isn’t convinced the police have investigated thoroughly enough and is determined to find out for himself whether Cam was in fact murdered.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (2019) 345 pages ★★★★★
A truly outstanding murder mystery, but so much more
Although The Lost Man is a murder mystery, it may be doing Jane Harper a disservice to pigeonhole it as crime fiction. For one thing, her depiction of the desert environment and of the lengths that people must go to survive is compelling. You’ll feel the heat at the Bright home. Her portrayal of the complex dynamics of the Bright family is masterful. And the suspense builds in this high-octane novel as much because we want to know how the family’s relationships evolve as to learn whether Nathan identifies a murderer.
About the author
Born in Britain, Jane Harper has lived in Australia since the age of eight. She has written three crime novels, all set in rural Australia. In every one of her books, the land is a character as compelling as any of the humans in the story.
For additional reading
You’ll find this book on The 40 best books of the decade from 2010-19.
You’ll also find this book in good company on my post, Pandemic got you down? Read these books!
Previously I reviewed Jane Harper’s earlier novel, The Dry, at Multiple murder in the Australian outback.
You’ll find this book on my list of The decade’s top 10 historical novels, mysteries & thrillers, and science fiction.
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