What is this about?: Brothers Bub and Nathan find their third brother, Cameron dead near a stockman’s grave in outback Queensland. They cannot fathom how their brother died there when he farmed the land, had grown up in the area and knew better than to be caught out in the outback. Yet, there’s his car where he parked it, and there’s nothing wrong with the body. It’s as if he committed suicide, they assume, though they would not have expected it of him. So what happened?
What else is this about?: Family, and the secrets we all hide.
Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper
They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, 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 lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…
Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.
The Lost Man is mile apart from Jane Harper’s Force of Nature, the lacklustre second entry in her bestselling series, and for that I am supremely grateful – mostly because I can view her new books without some form of guilt for not liking Force of Nature.
The Bright Brothers
The Bright brothers own land next to each other, but close is a relative term, for it’s easy enough to go a year without seeing each other given that they are about three hours or so from each other’s houses, have farms to run and repair and cattle to deal with.
So when their Bub and Nathan are called to the body of their younger brother Cameron, they are coming back together after a long time apart. Cameron was found near a stockman’s grave – which is a grave site, that has it’s own history and set of tall tales around it. But it’s one of those things, everyone knows about, and that is part of the history of their town and their farms.
The thing is to everyone’s surprise, it looks as if Cameron might’ve committed suicide, because there seems to be no other explanation given all the circumstances around his death.
From the discovery of the body Harper introduces readers to the family: Cameron’s wife, Ilse and his young daughters Sophie and Lo. There’s Bub, who feels like neither Nathan nor Cam ever took him seriously, and Liz, their mother who is devastated at the loss of her son. And then there’s Nathan, the brother who is our POV into their lives, and his son Xander who is visiting.
After an acrimonious divorce, made worse by the things Nathan did during that time, Harper steers his story into the loneliness that comes with being a farmer in the Outback, contrasting it with Cameron and highlighting just why it’s hard to believe that he committed suicide, despite evidence suggesting that is the only logical answer.
Slowly, as the family comes to terms with Cameron’s death, his pending funeral and even a Christmas just days away, Harper begins to unveil the Brights’ secrets, the brothers’ childhood and their father, until the book reaches a conclusion that left me mouth-open-and-going-WOAH.
Yes, yes, you know the drill with endings that get that reaction from me, but Harper has created this ominous vibe to the book, as Nathan considers the people around him – his family and the backpackers that are part and parcel of Cameron’s life – in an effort to figure out what happened to his brother.
Her writing is sharply focused, bringing the searing sun of the outback beating down on me as I read about the brothers on their farms. Atmosphere is difficult to create in a book set in what amounts to be a remote (and kind of enclosed) space, but she manages it with characters readers will get to know, relate to – flaws and all. And in among them, lurks a killer.
It’s a marvellous return to form for me by Jane Harper, and I am thoroughly looking forward to her next one.