There’s an Australian author who has captured my imagination more thoroughly than any writer since I discovered my first ‘favourite author’, Margaret Atwood, in high school many, many moons ago.
Jane Harper was born in the UK but spent her childhood in Australia. She returned to England as a teenager to study, where she then joined the workforce as a journalist. In 2008, she settled in Victoria, worked for some hefty Australian news outlets, and decided to pursue her writing career.
According to her website, the inspiration for her debut novel The Dry was to write a book that she would enjoy reading herself. I can’t confirm if she achieved this goal (my guess is a resounding yes!) but if the accolades are anything to go by, she has certainly managed to create something that millions of readers have enjoyed.
The Dry was first recognised on the literary scene in 2015 when it received an award in the ‘unpublished manuscript’ category of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. It has since taken out a slate of honours including the 2017 Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year award; 2017 ABIA Book of the Year and ABIA Fiction Book of the Year awards; and the 2017 Indie Book of the Year and Indie Debut Fiction Book of the Year.
What I love about Harper’s writing is that you can see her journalistic experience emerging in the attention-to-detail and quality of her work. She’s a thorough storyteller and even though her novels are mysteries that jump between timelines and plotlines and have you guessing, on the edge of your seat, right until the last page, she doesn’t leave any questions unanswered.
In both The Dry and its sequel, Force of Nature, which was released in 2017, Harper throws readers right into the middle of the story, in a blaze of action and suspense. The context and background develop the more you read and the outcome is that you feel like you’re unravelling the mystery right there alongside the protagonist, Federal Police Investigator, Aaron Falk.
Falk – a quiet, gentle and introspective country bloke who lives a lonely life and whose investigative style is grounded in his scrupulous morals and experiences growing up in rural Victoria – is the main character in both novels.
He provides an interesting lens through which we view the deaths of three locals in his hometown, the farming community of Kiewarra, in The Dry, and the disappearance of a whistleblower on a corporate retreat in the rugged Giralang Ranges in Force of Nature.
Both stories are quintessentially Australian, beautifully capturing the grandeur and sheer enormity of the country’s diverse landscape. Written in a familiar and respectfully-fearful tone that only an Aussie, who truly understands the power of nature Down Under, could master.
Harper has already sold the movie rights for The Dry and by all reports, there are some seriously big names sniffing around the key roles (oh hey, Reese Witherspoon). So, if you haven’t already read her books, I’d suggest brushing up before they become the next Hollywood hits!
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