The lost man by Jane Harper

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Macmillan, 2018. ISBN 9781743549100
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Psychological thriller. Domestic violence. Divorce. Suicide. Rape. In this engrossing standalone novel, Harper takes the reader to the harsh outback, where three brothers tend the land and face all the difficulties of being pastoralists as well as the unrelenting hot sun and isolation of big properties. The book opens with an unforgettable scene with Nathan and Bub meeting at an old stockman's grave, where Bub has discovered the body of the middle brother Cameron. Cameron has been slightly strange over the past weeks. Did he walk to his death or has something happened to him?
Harper builds up the tension in an unrelenting way as the reader tries to unravel the many threads in the book. Why has Nathan been ostracised by the people in the district and will he be able to keep his sanity? What has been troubling Cameron and who was the strange woman who contacted him before his death? Did Cameron commit suicide or did something more sinister happen?
As the story unfolds and the family dynamics and history are gradually unpeeled layer by layer the reader is taken on a journey that encompasses domestic violence, the horrors of divorce and custody battles and the spectre of rape, all under the burning Queensland sun. Nathan is the central character and the author has sympathetically drawn his character as he suffers for his mistakes. Family dynamics play a big part in the book and the reader is forced to look at each person on the property as Nathan uncovers more puzzling details about Cameron's death.
Readers who may have wanted to see more of Aaron Falk (The dry and Force of nature) won't be disappointed. This is a stunning standalone novel that was very difficult to put down.
Definitely the best mystery that I have read this year!
Pat Pledger