‘The Lost Man’ is every bit the page turner you expect from Jane Harper, such a gifted Aussie writer. I have devoured all of her books as you can feel the heat and taste the red dust just like the characters - characters that will seep into your skin like the landscape... you will love and hate it and them in equal parts.
‘The Lost Man’ will have you thinking a lot about the ugly side of human nature as it builds an atmosphere of tension underneath an intriguing murdermystery that keeps you glued to the story from page one. This however is not a whodunnit or a detective lead mystery, at it’s core is a family unravelling - the Bright family, who are struggling to come to terms with the horrific death of brother/son/husband/father/uncle/nephew, Cameron.
It's told in first person POV mainly from the perspective of Nathan, who is the eldest son and lives on a neighbouring property completely alone. “He couldn't simply leave, for a lot of reasons. Financial. Practical. And not least because sometimes, quite a lot of the time, he felt connected to the outback in a way that he loved. There was something about the brutal heat, when the sun was high in the sky and he was watching the slow meandering movement of the herds. Looking out over the wide-open plains and seeing the changing colors. It was the only time he felt something close to happiness."
The information is unveiled, first raising questions, then answering those with new questions, until you're swiping madly trying to figure out what exactly happened to Cameron, and who was behind it. I found it highly addictive and I would say it’s my new favourite book by this iconic author, as I already feel the need to read it again as I am sure I will reveal totally different dimensions I missed on first reading... It’s definitely a new Aussie Classic...
When Jane Harper writes about the Australian outback, the vastness and searing heat are vivid. So too are the characters who live in this harsh climate. This is another Harper murdermystery. A husband and father is found dead by an old lonely grave. His car is found nine kilometres away. Why someone who knew the landscape so well would wander from his vehicle is beyond strange. In this landscape, without water, it doesn’t take long to die.
What unfolds is the kind of story you sometimes hear in the bush: a somber story of families that look alright on the outside but which contain inter-generational violence and cruelty. Many a man becomes a tyrant, an expert in physical and emotional abuse. This is not apparent at first, as loner Nathan leaves his struggling farm to come home after his brother’s death. Harper treads with sure footing as she unravels the psychological complexities of this family as she did in her previous novels, and the result is as gripping as before. I suspect that many others will do as I did, and read it straight through. Many will empathise with Nathan’s sadness as he considers the results of the choices he has made and be glad about the surprising, but not surprising ending. Top marks.
As I am sitting here, open-mouthed and still reeling from the emotional impact Jane Harper’s latest novel has made on me, I can only stutter: “Blimey, this book is good!” It not only contained everything I love in a mystery, but I would also be hard-pressed to name another mystery that so vividly evoked the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the Australian outback for me. This truly is armchair travel of the best kind! I can still taste the red grit of pindan on my chafed lips as I emerge, slightly dazed, from a massive all-day read-a-thon. Be warned – it’s best to start this one when you have plenty of time to spare, as it will suck you in and not let you go until the mystery is unravelled!
If you have read Harper’s earlier novels, you will know that she has a real knack for presenting the reader with real people, in real situation, in a landscape so untamed and raw that it can only be remote Australia. This time, however, there is no detective to uncover the cause of a young man’s sudden unexplained death, only a family torn apart by secrets and a brother trying to work out what killed his younger sibling. Was it suicide? Revenge? Cold-blooded murder, or just an accident? As the story slowly unfolds, with the clever little twists and reveals Harper throws in at exactly the right time, the answer will drive an arrow straight through your heart.
Lovers of slow-burning and character driven psychological thrillers will find every element that makes for a great story here: the remote atmospheric setting, true-to-life characters and an intriguing mystery based around the skeletons in the Bright family’s closet. Set on a remote cattle station surrounded by endless horizons of dry Queensland desert, it could even be called a kind of “locked room mystery”, as the small cast of characters may as well be trapped in the house together – if not by closed doors, then by the harsh landscape surrounding them. It seems that each and every character is hiding some sort of secret, many of which will really surprise and shock you as the layers of carefully constructed lies and omissions are being stripped away. There is even an old stockman’s grave that lends this story a creepy element, which I loved. But perhaps it is not the ghosts of stockmen the Bright family have to fear, but someone much closer to home ...
My words are woefully inadequate to gush my praises for this book, just to say that I enjoyed every minute of it and not much else got done in my household whilst this book had me utterly under its spell. I have been to the Australian outback and my kids even attended the school of the air for a year, so I could picture the setting very well and it brought back a few memories for us. But never fear, Harper’s words alone will transport you there regardless of where you live and what you have seen. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoys a setting that acts as a character of its own, or really anyone who enjoys a great mystery based around family dynamics. Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2018 and one you may find under your Christmas tree this year if Santa has any sense. Utterly brilliant!