The Dry by Jane Harper

A murder-suicide happens in a small town just two decades after another notorious murder in the community. Luke provides Aaron with an alibi, at great cost to his community standing, leaving Aaron indebted forever but after Luke apparently has shot his wife Aaron starts to wonder if the fabricated alibi was an act of altruism or an act of self-preservation and what other long sleeping secrets are ready to rise? When Aaron returns home after a long exile the blame and resentments are still waiting for him.

I live in Missouri, the center of the United States not in the Australian desert but I am from a small town and I know how they work. This book an accurate representation of rural life. When everyone knows everyone else there is no such thing as minding your own business. The only way the town can function is only one opinion prevails. Anyone unwilling to be on the bandwagon may be chased out for disrupting the harmony. When a group of outsiders, some adoptees tolerated by the community others unwelcomed intruders, band together to investigate a murder-suicide because the town is ready to write off the small anomalies the harmony is broken and the town goes apeshit.

This novel also shows the cancerous effect of secrets. You may be run out of town, you may be college bound and successful but the messy loose ends you left back on the farm still trail behind you. Aaron’s good friend died. His father suspected him, along with the whole town. His best friend covered for him. He’s spent his whole life since keeping people at a distance. After Luke died Aaron discovers that their long-distance friendship was filled with half-truths and evasions. Everyone has secrets. Apparently this town more than most. Twenty years ago and now the secrets people chose to keep buried the truth.  This time no matter how bad it looks to Aaron he won’t let the secrets stand.

This book beautifully communicates the nostalgia of rekindling childhood bonds as an adult, and also the people we associate with as adults really are a better fit for our lives. I like some of the symmetry in the evidence in the two cases and I appreciate that character development. Years ago Aaron lied to hide evidence. Now he will help in the investigation to the point of showing the chief of police an evidentiary mark against him.

I felt that this book was well thought out. All the evidence connected well and the ending was still surprising. The writing was excellent. Some books where the character starts investigating for financial crimes starts to feel like an economics lecture. This held my interest, emphasized the exciting parts and only the essentials for the technical aspects.

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