The Dry

Jane Harper

The Dry
Pan Macmillan Australia
28 February 2017

The Dry

Jane Harper

Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award 2017

Winner of the Ned Kelly Award for First Fiction 2017

Winner of the Davitt Award for Adult Novels 2017

Who really killed the Hadler family?

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well …

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds are reopened. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret … A secret Falk thought long-buried … A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface …


Jane Harper’s The Dry won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015, and before it was even published, rights were sold to over twenty territories and Reese Witherspoon’s production company is planning to adapt the book into a Hollywood film. That’s a lot of hype for a first novel to live up to – fortunately, Jane Harper writes with the easy confidence of a seasoned pro, and The Dry deserves all of its accolades, and more.

The novel follows Aaron Falk, an agent for the Federal Police, who is drawn from Melbourne back to his rural hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke, a farmer who has died in a grisly murder/suicide. Aaron hasn’t been back for almost 20 years, and he is far from welcome in his old town, but Luke’s parents beg him to stick around and look more deeply into what really happened to their son and his family.

There are two mysteries to be solved in The Dry, and a cast of characters who might be witnesses, suspects or simply red herrings. The story hits on a lot of familiar beats – the gritty cop with a shadowy past; a small town full of secrets and lies – yet it never feels cliché or trite. The Dry is the kind of thrilling whodunit that could sit in either crime or general fiction, and I would urge those who don’t typically read a lot of crime fiction to pick this one up. (Obviously, if you’re already a crime fiction fan, then it’s not to be missed.) If you’re looking for a gripping page-turner to cosy up with on a cold winter’s night, The Dry is the book for you.

Nina Kenwood


Among my favourite reads are works that source inspiration for subject material from the art world. Works such as Alex Miller’s Prochownik’s Dream or Paul Morgan’s Turner’s Paintbox draw on the rich cultural heritage of artistic life and bring depth of experience, knowledge and an emotional intuition to their work. Fellow Australian author Dominic Smith’s The Last Painting of Sarade Vos is cut from the same canvas and is an eloquent, well-crafted work that focuses on Dutch painting of the Golden Age. With creative embellishment, Smith illuminates the lesser-known story of female master painters of 17th-century Holland and explores other more contemporary topics such as art conservation and the science behind art forgery.

As an interesting structural format, the story is split across three time frames, each linked by a shared connection to the fictional artist Sara de Vos. The story opens in 1630 in Holland and we meet de Vos as she is dealing with her husband’s abandonment of her and struggling to gain recognition by the Artists’ Guild, an imperative if she is to produce and sell artwork to support herself independently. Cast forward 300 years to 1950 and Michael de Groot, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, is the custodian of de Vos’s last surviving painting. We also meet Ellie Shipley, an Australian in her final year of an art history PhD at Columbia University. Financial issues together with professional curiosity see Shipley make the fated decision to copy the de Vos painting for a private commission. But when an art heist follows and the forgery is swapped for the original, Shipley’s anonymity may not protect her from criminal or professional repercussions. Many decades later in Sydney, as Shipley curates an exhibition of Dutch female artists, the rogue forgery threatens to show up. What follows is masterfully unexpected.

Natalie Platten

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