The Dry

Flatiron: Macmillan. Jan. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781250105608. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250105615. M
When Luke Hader and his family are found shot to death at their farm near the small town of Kiewarra, the locals presume it to be a murder-suicide, the desperate act of a man pushed to the brink by financial woes caused by the area's two-year drought. Luke's father is not convinced, though, and asks Aaron Falk, once Luke's best friend and now a police officer in Melbourne, to investigate. But as Aaron probes the case, he faces hostility from the townspeople who remember that 20 years ago he had been a teenage suspect in the drowning death of a young girl; what saved him from being charged were the alibis Luke and Aaron had given each other—alibis that some residents know were lies. Winner of the 2015 Victorian Premier Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, this first novel by a former journalist was an Australian best seller, but despite the critical acclaim it has received, this work fails on many fronts as a mystery: slow, tedious pacing; poor character development; lack of suspense or surprise (readers can spot the culprit and plot twist a mile away).
VERDICT Because of the advance hype, crime fiction fans will want this, but steer disappointed readers to Peter Temple's superior The Broken Shore, which offers a more authentic portrait of small-town Australia. [See Prepub Alert, 7/25/16; library marketing.]
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