Wednesday, November 4, 2020

More Audio: "The Lost Man' BY Jane Harper

 More Audio: The Lost Man by Jane Harper, 2018, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

Another Australian whodunnit heavy on the setting of remote Australia. Gloriously heavy. "I can feel the heat threatening death" heavy.

I read the initial plot description and this sounded like a pile of crap. That plot intro was roughly "two brothers meet at a remote property marker with a third brother dead at their feet". This novel is so much better than the intro that made it sound like a boring family drama.

Briefly: Three brothers rasied by a violent father on a middle-of-nowhere cattle station in Australia. Thousands of acres of land. The oldest brother has a station next to the family land and is a 90 minute drive away. Harper brings home the remoteness and solitude throughout the novel because the loneliness is integral to life. No neighborly chats. No chatty phone calls. No streaming Netflix. Instead there is always farm work to do and the semi truck comes every couple months or so to stock up your cold room with provisions. The cold room protects against the regular 100+ F heat.

Anyhoo. One of the brothers is found dead at a 100-year-old grave marker. The oldest brother (he's about 35-40 years old) narrates and wondering what the fuck happened. Because, no one goes out into the Bush without a truck stocked with food and water, a radio, and telling everyone the destination and schedule. When the dead brother's truck is found a few kilometers away things are inexplicable.

Harper's books have nice, paced reveals for all the character's histories. Fun stuff.


1. After the brother's death no one says 'suicide'. No one says 'killed himself. All the familiy, far-off neighbors, police, and local health guy are thinking he had to have killed himself. But no one says the words.

2. Isolation as a necessity for that way of life. Farming requires lot of hours and a trip to the pub is three hours of driving. You have a few beers at the bar and then sleep in your truck.

3. Got me thinking of Sara Gran's PI, Claire DeWitt. The eldest brother is lonely by choice after a rotten father, dumped by a unhappy wife, money trouble, banished from town, poor farming land, poisoned dead dog, etc. He is lonely by active choice. Does not have or want close relationships. DeWitt has plenty of clients, friends, and one-night-stands but little intimacy.

4. Harper has some perceptive comments on loneliness. That being alone is tolerable and manageable because you shut down a few emotions. When returning to society you visit friends and family and smile and enjoy yourself. That may be for a few hours, maybe a day or two, and then you have to return to isolation. Easier to just avoid those brief human interactions when you know the loneliness that will come afterwards.

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