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The Lost Man

Review

The Lost Man

Award-winning Australian novelist Jane Harper has gained a lot of American fans in recent years with her two novels featuring Federal Agent Aaron Falk: THE DRY and FORCE OF NATURE. Now she’s back with an equally compelling stand-alone mystery set in the Australian outback, in which one brother’s death uncovers decades’ worth of secrets and lies.

Nathan Bright hasn’t seen his brothers, Cameron and Bub, for months. This in and of itself isn’t surprising, even though the men reside on neighboring property. They live in the remote Australian desert, after all, and their properties are so vast that they can drive for hours before they see any evidence of people or houses. Now, however, just before Christmas, the three are reunited --- but Bub and Nathan are the only ones alive. Cameron is lying dead in the middle of the wilderness, at the foot of the so-called stockman’s grave, a mysterious, isolated headstone that was the subject of amateur artist Cameron’s most well-known painting years before.

"Even without the beautiful hand-drawn map that opens the novel and starkly illustrates the emptiness of the landscape, THE LOST MAN vividly portrays the damage that can be caused by extreme isolation."

No one can figure out what would have possessed a man like Cameron, who has lived his whole life in the bush, to abandon his air-conditioned vehicle, well-stocked with food and water, and set off on foot on a journey that would have meant near-certain death when temperatures soared well over 100 degrees. Cameron had a loving wife and two bright daughters, and he seemed to be doing well financially. Was his death a suicide, or was he lured somehow to the place where he died?

Drawn back into the orbit of his family, Nathan is compelled to relive too many family memories. Of all the brothers, Nathan has found himself the most alone. After his divorce, when his ex-wife moved with their young son to Brisbane, Nathan made a horrific error in judgment that resulted in him being shunned by nearly everyone in the area’s only town and cut off from a credible chance at romantic love. He has come to terms with his loneliness, or so he thought, until he finds himself reunited with Cameron’s family, Bub and their mother, Liz.

Even without the beautiful hand-drawn map that opens the novel and starkly illustrates the emptiness of the landscape, THE LOST MAN vividly portrays the damage that can be caused by extreme isolation. Nathan’s interactions with his family and with Cameron’s employees reveal not only the rifts and holes in Nathan’s own life, but also the lies that have remained buried and the secrets that have been left untold for far too long. Readers who find themselves immersed in Nathan’s journey will ask themselves who the “lost man” of the novel’s title is. Is it Cameron, who has lost his life; Nathan, who has lost his way; or something else entirely?

Jane Harper continues to establish herself as a masterful writer whose suspenseful novels mirror the moods of the landscapes in which they are set.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 12, 2019

The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250105684
  • ISBN-13: 9781250105684