Book Review: THE LOST MAN by Jane Harper

A richly evocative, beautiful, and important book, character-driven and expertly-plotted, with an ending that packs a wallop that screams to be pondered and discussed with others, Jane Harper’s The Lost Man is one of those novels in which atmosphere and landscape become an integral “character” in the story. The Lost Man would be a terrific choice for a mystery fiction book club!

The Lost Man is set in the Outback, in the interior of Australia, a vast, distant, almost primeval land of wide-open spaces, with arid, red dirt for eleven months of the year, and murky flood waters for the rest. “A land of mirages”, where homesteads can be three hours apart, and the sun can be hot enough to kill.

Sometimes, quite a lot of the time, he felt connected to the Outback in a way that he loved. There was something about the brutal heat when the sun was high in the sky and he was watching the slow, meandering movement of the herds, looking out over the wide, open plains and seeing the changing colors in the dust.

It was harsh, and unforgiving, but it felt like home.
— The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Told in the third person, Ms. Harper’s first standalone novel focuses on Nathan Bright, a forty-two year old, divorced father of a sixteen year old teen who lives with Nathan’s ex-wife, 1500 kilometers away, in Brisbane. When Nathan is not having one of his infrequent, Outback visits with his son, Nathan lives alone on a huge, desolate, cattle property, a generator his only source of electricity. Nathan must plan his meals six months in advance, and keep a precise inventory of supplies, as the large, refrigerated, supermarket truck from Brisbane delivers groceries to the homesteaders and cattle stations of the region only once every six weeks. When the floods come, Nathan’s home can be completely cut off, trapping Nathan in his home for weeks. Outback residents learn to never drive during the dry months without bringing survival gear, because if your car breaks down, you might not see another car for days. If you live with others, you must write in a log where you are going, and when you plan to return, as phone signals may be nonexistent. But Nathan lives mostly without human contact, unwelcome by those in the closest town of Balamara, deserted, one by one, by his staff, and left to manage his 700 kilometer property, with its 500-600 cattle, all by himself. In this rough and tumble, remote, and otherworldly landscape, this sort of isolation can put a man - or woman - in physical, as well as psychological, life or death peril. When one of Nathan’s brothers is found dead of apparent exposure to the elements near the infamous “stockman’s grave”, with its 1890s headstone, upon which is chiseled, “who went astray”, Nathan rejoins his family to investigate his brother Cameron’s mysterious death. The reader also learns why Nathan has been so removed from the others upon whom his own life, liberty, and happiness may depend.

I listened to the excellent audio book, read by Aussie actor, Stephen Shanahan, who has narrated all three of Ms. Harper’s books. The audio book includes a bonus interview with Shanahan and Jane Harper, as well as a sample of Ms. Harper’s debut story, The Dry, which I heartily recommend, and which - I called it! - is currently in production to become a film adaptation!

The Lost Man touches upon the universal themes of family relationships and bonds, the importance of community, as well as redemption, and forgiveness. Utterly compelling, and with characters I will not soon forget, The Lost Man gets my highest recommendation! It’s an instant classic!


Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who appreciate mysteries that are not very violent.

  • Who enjoy crime fiction and mysteries featuring “amateur detectives”.

  • Who enjoy reading more literary crime fiction, such as the work of Irish crime novelist Tana French.

  • The Lost Man may appeal to fans of crime fiction that takes place in the American West.

  • Who enjoy reading character-driven, family sagas with complex, often suspenseful plotting.

  • Who love to be transported to new places, and to different ways of life through their reading experiences!

    Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

    Length: 10 hours 59 minutes (Audio Book)

Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

About the Author:

Jane Harper has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year. 
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. 
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

MINM Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars!

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