Jane Harper addresses many contemporary Australian issues in this compelling page-turner. Fans won't be disappointed!
The setting is cattle country, rural Queensland. Three brothers – Nathan, Cameron and the youngest, Bub – all have their inner demons to deal with. Raised by a brutal father, the wounds still linger, even long after he has died. The heat in this part of the country is relentless and unforgiving. It’s also deadly. A few hours exposure without shade or water and you’re a dead man.
When middle brother, Cameron, is found dead by a mysterious old stockman’s grave, it confounds everyone. Cameron knew the land, knew what risks to take and what to avoid. Mysteriously, his car, fully stocked with food and water, is found nearby. What could be going on? Family and friends had noticed he was stressed about something in the days before he died. As Cameron’s past is excavated, dark secrets are revealed, secrets that may have had something to do with his unlikely death.
With Australia experiencing dire drought conditions, Jane Harper’s third novel has an unnerving timeliness about it. The Lost Man paints a picture of a hopelessly barren environment, arid and unproductive, sending those that work it near mad. Many contemporary issues are woven into the novel: mental health, suicide, high levels of farmer debt, isolation, excessive drinking, bad male role models, stress on families. The list goes on. The novel also examines the question of sexual consent in a manner that is sophisticated and nuanced.
As a crime thriller, the story keeps you breathlessly turning the pages. You have to hand it to Jane Harper: she really puts together a virtuoso performance. Nothing is out of place in this pitch perfect novel, with its plot that ticks like clockwork and serious themes of fractured families, brutal fathers and an even more brutal land.
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper. Published by Macmillan. ISBN: 9781743549100 RRP: $32.99.
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books