The Lost Man is Jane Harper’s third novel and it’s her best book yet. I read this in 24 hours because I was hooked on trying to solve the mystery. I thought that The Dry was good, Force of Nature was even better, but The Lost Man is now my favourite.
This books tells the story of three brothers living on adjacent vast cattle properties in the middle of outback Queensland. It’s a place so remote that it takes three hours to drive to the nearest town and groceries are delivered every six weeks by a refrigerated truck. People drive around in cars packed with water, food, spare tires, fuel and radios because if you breakdown out here then help is a long way away and wandering anywhere in the harsh sun can lead to death in hours. One policeman looks after a territory the size of the state of Victoria. It’s an extreme environment full of heat and dust.
The Lost Man doesn’t have the police character Aaron Falk in it, who appeared in Jane Harper’s first two novels, instead it’s told from the point-of-view of Nathan, the oldest Bright brother. The book opens with him meeting his youngest brother Bub at the site where his middle brother Cameron’s body lies. The body is found at the stockman’s grave, an old landmark where a man died years ago. It’s the only place in the harsh landscape where Cameron could have found a sliver of shade. But it wasn’t enough.
The Bright family are stunned and perplexed by Cameron’s sudden death. Why did he wander nine kilometers away from his fully stocked car and into certain death? Nathan doesn’t know what to think. But when he goes to stay at Cameron’s property, home to his mum, Cameron’s wife and children, Bub, and a few property workers, Nathan begins to ask questions to try to make sense of it all. In doing so it raises questions about his past.
I thoroughly enjoyed everything about The Lost Man — from the mystery element to Jane Harper’s descriptions of the vast and forbidding landscape. Her descriptions of life on a remote outback property were fascinating. The characters were well constructed and believable. While I did guess some parts of the plot, I was completely surprised by other plot twists. This book would make a fantastic movie or TV miniseries. I can’t wait to read whatever Jane Harper writes next.
Verdict: A top-notch mystery that you have to read!