BabyMac Book Club: The Dry {The Discussion}

This book club reading just may well be starting to rub off on me…whilst I’m not getting through lots of books, I do know that I devoured this book in about 3 sittings on my recent holiday…it was the perfect page turner filled with great characters, setting and plot that had me guessing till the last moment. I hope you guys enjoyed this great debut novel from Jane Harper just in time for the next novel in the series which is due out next month.

Jane Harper has certainly given us a great story for her first novel: packed with mystery and drama for for me, such great characters that had me turning those pages pretty quickly. I was interested to see that the book was sold to 20 publishers and has had the film rights option picked up by Reese Witherspoon’s production company. It certainly has a TV series or movie feel to it.

Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty of the novel. Obviously there will be spoiler alerts here so if you haven’t read it, time to click away now.


The book is set in the small, rural town of Kiewarra which is suffering from it’s second year of drought. The novel opens to the murder of a local farmer, Luke Hadler, who appears to have murdered his wife and son and then committed suicide, leaving his 13 month old daughter behind. Luke’s old childhood friend from Kiewarra, Aaron Falk, a police officer from Melbourne arrives to attend the funeral. Aaron hasn’t been back here since he left over 20 years ago when he was accused of being involved in the death of another of their childhood friends, Ellie Deacon and he and his father left after constant harassment but has been drawn here after receiving a letter from Luke’s Dad saying that he knew that Aaron and Luke lied about Ellie’s death so he was to come back.

Aaron hopes to stay for a short period of time but gets drawn into investigating Luke’s death. He works with the local police officer, Raco, to try and uncover this apparent murder suicide as well as bringing up the sins of the past with Ellie’s death. The duel plots and mysteries unveil the small town and the secrets that the people hold who live there.


The characters of this story are I think one of the reasons for its success. They are all so drawn out and in some ways, likeable, that it made you care for them and what happened, and what they did.

Aaron Falk is the main character of the novel from whom the story is told (past tense third person). He’s an interesting kind of person, no real relationships – I wondered about him not having a Mum, the relationship with Luke, his Dad and the torment he got as a 16 year old. Mostly I thought he was a kind person, with a good heart who wanted to do the right thing. By Luke’s parents, Luke himself, Luke’s wife and son and of course his childhood friend Ellie who we were guessing about the whole time.

Luke Hadler seems a larger than life kind of guy. I constantly wondered about him – his dodgy connections with Ellie and her death which made you wonder if it was possible that he murder his own family. I liked his relationship and even power that he seemed to have over Aaron, as we were listening to the story from Aaron’s point of view, it made him seem even more powerful than he probably was.

Gretchen was the 4th friend in the childhood circle that Aaron, Luke and Ellie shared. She’s still living in Kiewarra, a single Mum to her young son and reconnects with Aaron during his stay. She had me guessing about her, particularly when we learn about her relationship with Luke, and even the potential for him being the father of her son. Not letting us know who the father was kept my suspicions high and my trust for her at a distance. Maybe that’s what this town does to people…makes you question even the good ones. Look at Aaron, Luke, Ellie…

There’s other characters in the town: Raco, the police officer in town investigating the murder/suicide, Luke’s parents, the Principal, Ellie’s father and brother, the bar manager, the other people that live in Kiewarra that all make up the sad and desolate place that it is. Each of them you felt like you knew, or could imagine. They were all so well drawn out I thought.

What did you think of Aaron Falk and is he worth following into another book?
How about Luke? Did you question the murder from the start?
Who did you like best of all?
And who did you trust least of all?


There are so many twists and turns  in this novel that I suppose are the success in its ability to make you churn through it as quickly as you can. There are plenty of red herrings along the way too. I loved the duel mystery plots that span over the 20 years that have you questioning both the murders or suicides of then and now – a great way to keep the interest up and build characters and their reasonings behind their actions. We get transported between what actually happened, how Aaron sees it between then and now and I thought this style worked well.

How about the mystery of Ellie and then Luke? Did you suspect who had done it? Who was on your list of who could have killed them?

What did you think of the narration and flow of the story?
Did you think there was a good balance between then and now?
Did you think that the duel mysteries added or took away from each other?


There were some central themes in the book that stood out for me.

    • Drought: how it effects a town and the people that live there. You could feel the heat and the dryness of it all didn’t you think? You could feel the desperation that comes with a drought, the relentlessness of it and the thirst that it brings for change. I loved the contrast between then and now, when the town was in drought and when the river was running.
    • Small towns & secrets: there have been quite a few Australian novels set in small country towns that explore the idea of places where people who everything (or so they think) and how easy it is to keep lies and people guessing because everyone knows everyones business. Kiewarra is a town of secrets that had me guessing and wondering about every single person that lived there. I liked that it still had such a hold over Aaron, all these years later.
    • Lies: the exploration of lies is set up at the beginning of the book with the note that Luke’s Dad sends to Aaron. It lets us know that it will be a theme of the book. The lies people tell each other, that they tell themselves. The plot, the characters and the town are all woven into a complex web of lies.

What did you think were important themes in the book?
Any that you thought were particularly insightful/interesting?

I really enjoyed this novel, the place, the characters the pace and constant questioning about everyone in it as well as the two mysteries. It had me guessing right till the last minute and I’d definitely be keen to see it on the screen, as well as reading a little more about Aaron in the next book.

But I’d love to hear what YOU think! Did you enjoy the book? The characters? Themes? Narrative style? Plot? The twist or the murder? Did you guess who had done it?

I’m going to do a Facebook LIVE video tonight on my Facebook page (12th September 2017) at 8.00pm AEST (all things going to plan with 3 kids) so come and join in and ask any questions or have a discussion there with me.


  1. Loved this book so much. It was our book club’s book this month and we’re meeting tomorrow night. Now I’ll sound intelligent thanks to your report, Beth!

  2. I loved this book, then looked at the author’s photo and realised I knew her. We both worked in a summer camp in Maine in the 90s. Didn’t realise she would become such a great novelist!

  3. Beryl Hickey says

    I totally enjoyed reading this book, loved the main characters and interaction with one another. I felt like I was transported back in time when Aaron was young hanging out with Luke, Ellie and Gretchen were young, and back to present time and his feelings of the town he left 20 years earlier and the locals. I also felt the desperation of the town suffering through the drought and bleakness for the future. Thanks for recommendation.

  4. Lauren @fairview_farmhouse says

    Loved this book. Hard to put down as the characters really drew me in and I just needed to know what happened. Great book!

  5. I loved the book the characters were very small town people but not over described my husband read it after me and enjoyed it too.

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