The Lost Man was Criminally Good Book Club’s March pick.
He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.
Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that 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 choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
Harper’s previous two novels (The Dry and Force of Nature) were part of her ‘Aaron Falk’ series, The Lost Man is her newest novel and it’s a standalone. I was nervous excited when I started this novel as I really enjoyed both Falk novels, and you know that whole ‘if it ain’t broke…’, anyway I went into this one with an open mind, and I’m pleased to report I enjoyed it.
The Lost Man is less of a crime thriller than I anticipated, it’s very much a family drama. The mystery, for me, felt like a device that was used to drive the exploration of this family’s relationships with one another. The family dynamics were certainly placed under a microscope, and some of the findings were dark. Regarding the mystery, it took a back seat and deservedly so, because it wasn’t the strongest mystery, the conclusion to it just didn’t deliver the shock factor or build to the level of intensity I suspect it was meant to. This novel’s success lies in the suspense, not about Cameron’s death and who did it, but of the anticipation that this family could implode at any time, because every family has secrets.
If you enjoy psychological dramas, you may really enjoy this one, as it has that slower pace that is common to the subgenre, without losing the psychological thrills. As it was heavily reliant on the family drama, I would have liked it to run a bit deeper, a bit darker. You know that feeling when you’re sucked into a family’s drama, you analyse everything and everyone – yeah, that feeling just wasn’t there for me.
What was present, however, was the incredibly atmospheric nature, Harper’s ability to create a stifling atmosphere, making the climate/weather’s present so strong, it was a character itself. The dry heat making you need some water just to make it to the next chapter. The heat, the isolation of the Australian outback, Harper’s literary writing style really brought this novel to life. You’re transported to the setting, the tension within this family is palpable because the atmosphere is stifling. And this is the reason I will read all that Harper writes, because I love atmospheric novels.
If you’re a fan of Harper’s writing, I’m sure you’ll be reading this novel. If perhaps you weren’t a fan of Harper’s previous novels, I’d definitely suggest giving this one a go, because you might find the slower pace, the family exploration in this novel works for you. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this one above the Falk series, but it’s a good standalone novel, just remember to grab a bottle of water before you enter the Australian outback!