It’s been twelve years since that one day which changed Kieran’s life. Now, with his wife Mia and their three-month-old daughter Audrey, they come back to Evelyn Bay to visit his parents. His father’s dementia has been deteriorating more quickly recently and thus they are moving house and sorting out stuff. Only shortly after they have arrived do they also meet their old friends: Olivia and Ash, now a couple, then also victims of that fierce storm which not only took Kieran’s brother’s life but also Olivia’s sister. And they meet Sean and his nephew Liam who lost his father and who still holds Kieran responsible for that. When the young waitress Bronte is found murdered on the beach, the memories of that unforgettable day resurface and all the emotions, too. Will twelve years after the disaster, which brought so much suffering and pain, the same happen again to that small community?
I liked Janes Harper’s novels “The Dry” and “Lost Man” since she is brilliant at catching the atmosphere and transferring this in her novels. “The Survivors”, too, has a special ambiance which defines the novel. The small circle of characters who all share the memories of that disastrous day and who all, in their own way, still can feel the pain that is connected to the storm and its outcome. Thus, the murder case at hand quickly becomes much less interesting than the question if people are hiding something, if the narrative of the events has to be re-written.
At first, I was misled by the title which I thought referred to the people who had survived the aforementioned storm, however, it is something completely different yet decisive for the plot. Even though the investigation on Bronte’s murderer seems not really to advance, the novel gets increasingly thrilling with more aspects of the storm day being evoked. Many characters act highly suspiciously which I totally adored since it made me spin one theory after another about the events. In the end, Harper provides a credible solution and no questions remains unanswered.
It is the landscape and the people formed by it who move at their own pace and who make “The Survivors” a wonderful read. It is a novel about how you can survive when others have died and especially how you can live with the guilt of being a survivor. For some however, being alive does not mean having survived, it is a daily fight against death. For me, the strongest novel by the author so far.
Since they have not heard from their brother Cameron who was due to meet them, Nathan and Bub set out for the remote border of their land in the Australian outback. They find Cameron dead, obviously from dehydration and close to the grave of the legendary stockman. His car about 9 miles away. The whole scene doesn’t make sense to them, yet, there must be a reason. When they return home, the news is greeted with silence, nobody really seems to be too sad, but nobody wants to tell Nathan what had happened the weeks before, obviously, there was something that had troubled Cameron. The deeper Nathan digs, the more secrets he uncovers that had been buried for a long time.
I have read novels from Jane Harper before and had certain expectations. “The Lost Man” however, did not make it easy for me. I expected some crime novel with a lot of suspense, but it took more than two thirds into the novel until I finally found it interesting and at least a bit exciting.
What made it most difficult was the fact that I hated all the characters. None of them was sympathetic and I was always fighting internally whom to hate most. We mainly meet elderly men, frustrated, eaten away by hatred and therefore harassing the people around them. It was just awful to follow them when they recklessly and egoistically do their own thing. More than once was I close to giving up because I didn’t see any progress in the plot and hardly could stand the characters’ lamentations.
Looking at it from the end, there is a clever crime plot that I could really appreciate, but it is a very long and hard way to get there. The novel certainly transports the hardship of farmers in the far away outback.
Zwanzig Jahre lang war Aaron Falk nicht mehr in Kiewarra, den kleinen Ort im australischen Outback, in dem er aufgewachsen ist. Doch nun wurde sein Jugendfreund Luke, dessen Frau und ihr Sohn erschossen aufgefunden. Alles deutet auf einen erweiterten Suizid hin. Doch nicht nur diese schreckliche Tragödie beschäftigt die Menschen; als sie Aaron sehen, kocht auch wieder die Gerüchteküche um den Mord an einem Mädchen zwanzig Jahre zuvor hoch. Luke war damals Aarons Alibi und beide wussten, dass ihre gegenseitigen Entlastungen Lügen waren. Offenbar weiß davon aber noch jemand etwas. Aaron hat Zweifel an Lukes Selbstmord und beginnt Fragen zu stellen, was nicht von allen gerne gesehen wird.
Jane Harpers Debüt „The Dry“ (unter demselben Titel inzwischen auch auf Deutsch erschienen), ist ein atmosphärisch düsterer Thriller im australischen Nirgendwo zur Zeit einer Jahrhundertdürre, der den Menschen bereits an den Nerven zehrt. Hier liegt für mich die größte Stärke des Romans, man spürt förmlich, wie die Stimmung am Zerreißen ist und kurz vorm Kippen steht. Geradezu wartet man auf ein furchtbares Gemetzel, dem noch mehr Menschen zum Opfer fallen.
Der Kriminalfall lässt einem lange auf falschen Spuren wandern und die Tatsache, dass man auch nicht weiß, ob man Aaron Falk trauen kann oder ob er selbst an einem Mord beteiligt war, erhöht die Spannung zudem. Erst langsam nähert man sich der Wahrheit, die dann ganz andere Aspekte zu bieten hat als man zunächst vermuten sollte und mit diesen Überraschungen kann die Autorin bei mir wirklich punkten.
Ein Thriller, wie man ihn sich wünscht. Aufgrund Harpers gelungenem Setting finde ich hier auch die Hörbuch-Version besonders empfehlenswert, da man das Flirren der Hitze und die Anspannung der Figuren geradezu greifen kann.