The Lost Man by Jane Harper – REVIEW
Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron.
The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.
Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
“They lived in a land of extremes in more ways than one. People were either completely fine, or very not. There was little middle ground.”
*** Proof received in exchange for an honest review. ***
Today I’m one of the bloggers partaking in the blog tour for the newest Jane Harper mystery and I’m so excited to share why I adore this author. I’ve read both Aaron Falk mysteries so was eager to read The Lost Man, a standalone set in outback Queensland. One of the things Jane Harper is able to do so well is to create an atmospheric setting that allows the reader to transport themselves to the relentless conditions of outback Australia. You can easily imagine the searing heat beating down on you, the pervasive dust, and the utter isolation of living in an area where your nearest neighbour is three hours away.
“The land stretched out, deep and open, all the way to the desert. A perfect sea of nothingness. If someone was looking for oblivion, that was the place to find it.”
After the body of his younger brother is found at the border of their vast cattle properties, Nathan begins investigating whether it was a suicide or something more sinister. The nuanced family relationships in this story are wonderfully complex, with every interaction coloured by their shared history. Long-held grudges, festering resentments and buried secrets come to the fore as Nathan digs deeper into Cameron’s life. This is not a book with a fast-paced plot; rather, it’s a beautiful and leisurely exploration of family dynamics within a small community.
“Two people can remember different versions of something and both think it’s the truth.”
One of my favourite elements was the portrayal of mental health in rural communities. It’s hard to comprehend how truly isolated Nathan is and how susceptible people in that situation are to depression. It was also frightening to contemplate the limitations of the police in dangerous domestic situations. When it takes hours for the police to arrive, how can you rely on them for protection? The author also touches on the vulnerability of backpackers in such isolated areas and I thought this was handled really well.
“The rules of the outback may seem brutal but they were written in blood.”
It would be easy to wonder why someone would want to live somewhere like outback Queensland but Nathan feels a deep connection to the area that is simply home to him. The narrative is well-paced with each chapter ending on a hook that kept me turning the pages until I’d rapidly read the whole thing. As the truth is finally revealed, I was completely surprised by how and why Cameron died. I loved the sense of resolution the story offered and the hope of happier times ahead for Nathan. This book is an exemplary mystery by a hugely talented author and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend to any crime aficionado.