Remote outback Queensland provides the setting for Jane Harper’s third novel. At the edge of two properties owned by members of the Bright family, in the middle of nowhere, is a grave known to all sixty-five of the locals as the stockman’s grave’. Only three words are visible on the headstone: ‘… who went astray’. It is here that Nathan and Bub Bright find the body of their brother, Cameron (Cam). They are shocked. Cam’s car is nowhere to be seen and he has no water or other supplies. Why would he have left his vehicle, and why was he there?
There’s no evidence of foul play, Cam clearly died of dehydration. His car is located some nine kilometres away, stocked with water and other supplies, and starts easily. So what went wrong?
Slowly, while the Bright family (which includes Cam’s wife and two daughters), prepares for his funeral, Nathan reflects on the past. He’s struggling to work out why Cam died. Some aspects just don’t make sense to him and he can’t let it go. And, as Nathan tries to make sense of it all, he revisits his own past, his failed marriage, a mistake he made which led him to be ostracised.
‘But two people can remember different versions of something and both think it’s the truth .’
To write more about the story might spoil it, and I don’t want to do that. It’s a complicated journey and it’s not always easy to differentiate red herrings from clues. The setting is important: the vast distances, the isolation, the red dust and the burning sun. There is more than one lost man in this story, but there may be some hope.
This is Ms Harper’s third novel. I have enjoyed each of them but this one is my favourite.