A Death Foretold
Jane Harper has made the Australian outback the playground for her bestselling books—the large, flat arid land she describes thus in her latest novel The Lost Man: “The horizon was so flat and far away it seemed possible to detect the curvature of the earth.” The area is dotted with homesteads so far apart that the ‘next door’ neighbour would be a three-hour drive away.
The only way to make contact is over the radio, and if a person ran out of fuel, water or supplies, death would be quick and brutal. A few days before Christmas, the dehydrated body of Cameron Bright is discovered—he dropped dead of thirst. Neither his brothers Nathan and Bub, nor the cops can understand why, because his car is parked nearby, full of food and water. His body is found by the Stockman’s Grave, a place that ha spawned dozens of ghost stories and local legends about the nameless man buried in the middle of nowhere. Cameron had no reason to be in that vicinity.
Moreover, Cameron, a successful cattle farmer, happily married to Ilse and the father of two young daughters, had no enemies who would want to murder him, and no provocation for suicide, at least not in this painful way, when he had a loaded gun.
The devastated family—including the mother Liz, loyal estate manager, Harry, and Nathan’s son Xander visiting from the city– gather at the Bright home to grieve and plan the funeral. Nathan, who lives a lonely life and struggles to make ends meet—a state for which Cameron was indirectly responsible—realises that there was a lot going on in the family, that he was not aware of; Cameron was not what he appeared to be to the townsfolk, and the Brights had too many secrets waiting to spill out of the cupboard.
Harper words are so vivid, that the reader can almost feel the heat on their skin, and simmers her plot on a slow flame, till she reaches the explosive, and quite unexpected climax. A book that is very difficult to put down.