The Lost Manby Jane Harper Published 05 Feb 2019
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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" Reviews
At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.
I think at this point I can definitely say that Harper is one of my favourite thriller writers. The Lost Man is a standalone, which, like her two previous novels - The Dry and Force of Nature - really takes advantage of its setting to create a deeply atmospheric and evocative story.
This book is set in the dry heat and isolation of the Australian outback. When local good guy Cameron Bright is found dead in the dirt, having dehydrated nine miles away from his parked car, it looks like it could be a bizarre suicide. Men have done stranger things out there in that desert. But his older brother, Nathan, remains unconvinced. Too many things don't add up, and it even looks like a long-buried part of Cameron's past might have come back to haunt him.
What follows is an emotional and character-driven tale about families and abuse. Nathan will need to return to memories of his own troubled childhood, growing up with an abusive father, in order to figure out what happened to Cameron.
Personally, I think many readers will guess at the direction the story is headed, but that did not make it any less satisfying. I like Harper's novels so much because she focuses on the characters and relationships, making the read about more than solving the mystery. This is the most effective and rewarding mystery/thriller writing, in my experience, because you don't feel like you've been short-changed if you guess the answers.
I also appreciate how well the author handled a mystery/thriller where the protagonist was not a detective. Many authors struggle to make this convincing (amateur investigations often seem daft) but she didn't have Nathan grabbing a Sherlock hat and magnifying glass. His uncovering of the secrets was much more natural and realistic than that.
At its heart, The Lost Man is more than a murder mystery-- it is a tale of families, loneliness, second chances and forgiveness. A complicated web of loyalties and conflicts exist between the members of the Bright family, and it is extremely compelling to read about. Write more, please.
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"He used to say the ones who wandered off called the loudest. For the rest of their lives, their mums would hear them crying out in the wind. Do you think that's true? That this place has ghosts? That the mothers would hear their lost children in the wind."
Guys, I'm blown away. I've been a colossal fan of Jane Harper since her debut novel The Dry was published, and more specifically a massive fan of her series protagonist Aaron Falk. Her lush, atmospheric way of writing makes me feel the heat of the Australian outback, and her character driven plots are more engaging than any high octane thriller, placing Harper squarely in the ring as one of the finest writers today. When I found out that The Lost Man would be a stand-alone novel, set apart from her police procedural series, I was a bit anxious due to the fact that I love those novels so much. Clearly, I had nothing to be concerned over, as I'm tempted to go so far as confirming that this is Harper's best work of fiction to date.
"Dead men didn't talk. Nathan must have thought that a hundred times over the years, but as he drove past the grave, the idea slipped slightly, taking on a strange and unfamiliar form. It was uncomfortable as it lodged itself in the darkest corner of his mind."
One of the most appealing aspects of The Lost Man is how it takes a traditional genre and puts the author's unique flair on the subject. If you've spent any time in the world of crime fiction, then you have likely read your fair share of police procedurals and may have even grown weary of their repetitive, familiar behavior. Here, Harper has inserted an amateur detective, the murder victim's brother, and made it read in a believable manner that feels neither contrived nor overdone. As we follow Nathan's journey in determining if his brother Cam was murdered or committed suicide, there are no fancy tricks or improbable action sequences where we shake our heads thinking, "No amateur would be able to pull that off!"
"Sometimes, the space almost seemed to call to Nathan. Like a faint heartbeat, insistent and persuasive... Life out here is hard. We all try to get through the best way we can. But trust me, there's not a single person here who isn't lying to themselves about something."
Is this a book that will shock you with unexpected twists and floor you with its unpredictable plot? Probably not. As someone who has read more "twisty" psychological thrillers than I can count, I'm finding it beyond difficult to pick up one of those that actually surprises me, or entertains me anymore. The Lost Man isn't that type of read though; this is a timeless tale of family dynamics, all-too familiar abuse, and perhaps a small enough cast that you will possibly guess the final outcome before the reveal. Let it be known, however, that I did NOT have it all nailed down before then.
This is the beauty of the book though; it's a small enough cast that your suspicion is cast upon everyone, and as the story progresses between past and present, the reader is brought to an emotional climax after a tense journey alongside of Nathan and his family. The excellence is in Harper's style of writing, her ability to captivate the reader, and talented way of transporting us to a place we may never have a chance to visit in person in our lifetime. If you enjoy emotionally charged, character driven stories, please do yourself a favor and pick this one up the second it lands in your hands. I feel privileged to have found one of my Top Ten reads of 2019 in the first month of the year, but I'll be thinking about this gem of a novel for a considerable amount of time.
*I received a review copy via the publisher.
4.5 Stars* (rounded up)
A Character Driven Novel to be Cherished! Extremely Thought-Provoking.
Living is hard in Queensland. The dry, the heat, the financial hardship and the inability to make a living. Families attempt to live off the land, raising cattle, red dust swirling all around them. Most eventually leave and truthfully, few survive.
The Bright brothers grew up in a time of struggle. Nathan, a divorced dad to Xander, is the eldest son, who was shunned from town when he was young; Cameron, the middle son, is married with two children, and is also a very successful rancher and businessman; and Bub the youngest, has always felt like an outsider.
When Cameron’s body is found at the Stockman’s Grave, it seems unfathomable. Did Cam take his own life or did someone end it? If so, was it stranger or someone close to him?
For me, “The Lost Man” isn’t a suspense or a mystery novel, even though it begins with the death of Cameron Bright. It is a slow moving yet fascinating character study of a family in turmoil. My favorite characters are Nathan and his son, Xander. Every thought and action they take in this book are sheer perfection. Xander is extremely observant and is also wise beyond his years and as for Nathan, he just about broke my heart.
There are many questions that swirl around in “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper. What is survival about? In addition, what makes a life? Thinking about these answers, my heart is heavy. “The Lost Man” is such a thought provoking book. This was my first read by Jane Harper. Going into it, I was expecting it to be completely different - I was therefore pleasantly surprised as I love character driven novels and the character of Nathan made a huge impression. This is a book to savor, to think about for hours and days after and just revel in the beauty of.
This was a buddy read with Kaceey - it garnered much discussion. I think this would be a fantastic book for a book club discussion and I highly recommend this novel.
A huge thank you to Cathleen Kenney, Flatiron Books, NetGalley and Jane Harper for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 12.28.18.
*Will be published on Amazon and Twitter on release date of 2.5.18.
Slow, but worthwhile!
The Lost Man is a character study about the Bright brothers: Nathan, Cameron, and Bub who live in the Australian outback. When Cameron, whom the family considered to be “the golden child,” is found dead by the legendary stockman’s grave, everyone’s at a loss in the small outback community in which they live. Cameron was loved by all and seemed to have the perfect life and family. His death doesn’t make sense. His older brother Nathan tries to figure out what led to his brother’s death. Was it suicide? Murder?
Nathan is the narrator. He is the oldest child and also the black sheep of the family. Having lived in near exile from the last 10 years, Nathan's relationship with Cam was on shaky ground towards the end. With his son Xander in tow, he begins to look for clues around the family farm trying to uncover the secrets behind the brother he barely knew. The Bright family is good at keeping secrets and pretending not to see what’s really going on. The three boys grew up in a tumultuous household and have been deeply impacted by the events of their childhood.
Even though The Lost Man is primarily about the Bright brothers, female characters play a pivotal role. While they might be dutifully standing by in the background, their power lies in observation and quiet intelligence.
The Lost Man is extremely slow-paced. I started it twice before and wound up pushing it to the side for other books. This time, I picked it up and once again I struggled with the pacing. However, I forced myself to keep on reading and I am so thankful that I did! If you are not a fan of books that move at an extremely slow pace, then this book will probably not work for you. The pace does pick up as the novel progresses and more and tidbits are revealed about the fascinating Bright family.
Harper’s writing makes this a worthwhile read. She transported me to the brutal conditions of the outback--I could feel the heat emanating from the pages. The characters are complex and compelling. The mystery behind Cam’s death is interesting, but the development of Nathan’s character takes center stage and held my interest. Overall, The Lost Man is a subtle, multilayered read filled with nuance and secrets that slowly unfold, leading to a startling conclusion.
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.
Another marvellous tale from Jane Harper. In this one we find ourselves at the lonely grave of a fallen stockman in the middle of outback Queensland, where another, much more recent, body is lying on the grave. The body turns out to be Cam Bright, a local landowner, but what was he doing in the middle of nowhere? And so far from his car? His older brother Nathan realises that things are not adding up, but Nathan has troubles of his own. As we delve into the families past secrets begin to slowly reveal themselves, both shocking and surprising.
I raced through this book in a day, mesmerised by the narrative and the descriptions of the beauty of the outback. Jane Harper does a wonderful job of transporting the reader into her tale, so much so we can feel the oppressive heat beating down upon us, and we are continually wondering what on earth Cam was doing so far from where he was supposed to be. This book is a must read for all lovers of fiction.
Desolate, dangerous, remote and vast; the Australian outback is a place I’d bet I will never see. Those who make it their home live a hard life coping with the savage heat of a vicious and unforgiving climate. One mistake means death and preparation is essential. The inhabitants know this so it makes no sense when two brothers find their middle brother dead in a godforsaken location and it appears he intentionally wandered off to his death. A death caused by the elements of the outback is gruesome. This is an intricately plotted mystery that delves deeply into the inner workings of a family dependent upon each other for survival. This does not disappoint and the writing is superb.