The Survivors by Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781760783945.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Highly recommended. It is rare that moments or themes in a book linger in the mind for a long time, but that is true of The lost man by Jane Harper and her latest book The Survivors. Kiernan returns to Evelyn Bay, a small seaside town in Tasmania, a place which flings up bad memories once again. He is haunted by guilt about an incident when he was a very young man and does not find ease in his family home, where his mother is struggling with his father's dementia, and the absence of his brother Finn. Then the body of a young woman is found on the beach and secrets held close for a long time start to surface.
The story is told from the point of view of Kieran and the reader gradually learns about the accident that happened in the past as the police start investigating the murder in the present. Can they be connected?
The small coastal town with its problems and people who all know each other is so well described that the reader will feel as if they have been there. The sunken wreck ideal for diving, that Sean and his nephew hope to make a living from and the Three Sisters the rocks that loom out of the ocean as well as the caves where the tide can fill all provide a background to the murder and the angst that Kiernan feels at being home.
All the supporting characters are well fleshed out and credible. The descriptions of teenage boys and the peer pressure that they are under to perform, with underage drinking and wild parties, are vivid and leave a lasting impression as Kiernan remembers his youth. His relationship with Mia and his little daughter Audrey is a saving factor for him and beautifully described.
Jane Harper is a wonderful author who manages to combine an exciting mystery for those who are addicted to the genre, while at the same time exploring the themes of guilt, forgiveness and redemption in a vivid Australian country setting.