Small-town secrets and murders highlight Jane Harper’s debut

Flatiron Books

Journalist Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, is already a bestseller in her native Australia and was released Jan. 10 in the United States as one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers of the year and an Indie Next Pick for January 2017.

Want more? Film rights also have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard.

The novel revolves around federal agent Aaron Falk, who two decades ago left the small, drought-stricken (and dysfunctional) farming community of Kiewarra, a fictional town in rural Victoria. Falk avoided prosecution for murder at the time, thanks to testimony from his childhood buddy, Luke.

But things change when Luke dies — suspected of a murder-suicide in which he may have shot his wife and son in cold blood and then himself. The community is convinced financial hardships brought on by the drought pushed him to do it.

Falk, who reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral, is urged by Luke’s family to disprove that theory.

Falk and a local detective are on the case but cutting through the lies, half-truths, rumors, dark secrets and small-town pettiness in search of the truth keeps the investigators on their toes.

“I wanted [Falk’s] character to be very much at odds with the people he left behind in town — he is fairly quiet and cerebral and is a fish out of water on his return,” Harper says in press materials. “The fact that he is such an outsider allows him to be the readers’ eyes and ears, and it is through him they experience the shock at just how far this community has fallen.”

And just who will Witherspoon cast to play him in the movie?

Celeste Williams

The Dry

  • By Jane Harper
  • Flatiron Books, $25.99
  • Audio: Macmillan Audio, $44.99; narrated by Australian actor Stephen Shanahan.