Opening Hook: I didn’t want to be involved as much as the lead didn’t
Main Character: Reluctant hero, personality missing
Plot Twisty-ness: You know who did it
Ok, I’ll do it! I’ll go against the majority on this one! HERE I COME MARTYRDOM.
But really, I have to say I found The Dry, to be, well, rather dry.
Yeah, the writing is technically good. The characters are fleshed out enough. The setting was different from the usual for me. There was a crime with a mystery to it. Past and present storylines were interwoven, and that can be tricky to do.
So, on the surface, it checked all the boxes.
But, I just found it kind of boring. Again, I gotta say dry.
I think perhaps I’m not a huge fan of cold case style mystery – where the predominant crime is old or closed. There’s no real crime scene to immerse yourself in. There’s no immediacy to the investigation.
And both crimes in this book fit this category, but the attention each was given felt lopsided. The murders of Luke Hadler and his family was the most recent, it is what pulled Falk back to his shitty hometown. This is what he’s supposed to be investigating, it’s where the red herrings and misdirection come into play, but the characters seemed too emotionally focused on the death of Falk’s friend Ellie from 20 years ago, while no one cared too much about Luke except for his parents.
There was no investigation happening to involve the reader in the mystery of Ellie’s death, no real misdirection or clues. It just was; this never answered question of what happened to Ellie Deacon? But you get nothing to really help you figure it out until 2/3rds of the way through when you suddenly have access to a dead girl’s POV.
Overall, there were no emotional moments for me – whether sadness or thrills or suspense. It was as flat as the Australian farmland it was set in. The most I felt was a simmering frustration for Falk around the bullshit mob-mentality of the assholes in his dump of a hometown, who had convinced themselves he was responsible for the death of Ellie Deacon based on some flimsy evidence (that could have easily been explained away by the fact that Falk and Ellie were best friends.)
The small-town aggression towards Falk was over-the-top ridiculous at points. I found myself becoming detached from this story more and more, not able to relate to any of the actions the characters took. And Falk’s response to it? He’s kind of a giant, boring pussy for being the narrative’s hero. Could his useless guilt-plaguing be any more overwrought? I mean, really. Give it a break for a chapter or two.
But, he’s an albino! That’s different. Oh and look, they’re shooting rabbits again!
By the time I closed this, I had the answers to what happened to Ellie and what had happened to Luke and all I could think was: I can’t believe it took 300+ pages to get here. I can’t believe both crimes were propelled forward by a name written on a piece of paper. Ooooo soooooo mysterious. Yeah, can’t say I was a fan of that parallel gimmick.
Really, if I’m being honest (why stop now?) the mystery was paper thin and the motivation behind the Hadler family murders was not nearly sinister enough to be gripping – I might even go so far as to say lame. As for Ellie – how did not one of those stupid townsfolk figure it out? Like, come on.
*SPOILER* Could it have been the towns biggest fucking asshole? Who would have thought?! *End Spoiler*
So, aside from all the ranting, I go back to my initial feelings. Technically, this was a well-written book, emotionally it was boring.
*Migrated review, originally posted to Goodreads in August 2017
Back of the Book:
A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by an award-winning new author.
After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.
Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.