Two Australian authors weave page-turning mysteries, while the latest work from acclaimed US writer Annie Proulx is nearly here,
Fiction burns hot and cold this month as readers pick up a firecracker debut and an icy thriller set in Antarctica.
Journalist Jane Harper proves literary is often mysterious, with her thriller
The Dry (Macmillan $33, ebook $13) capturing readers’ attention both for its final twist and its depiction of a hostile small Australian town beset by drought.
“It’s a story about a policeman who returns to his home town after leaving 20 years earlier under a cloud,” she says.
“He returns for the funeral of his childhood best friend, who has been involved in a murder-suicide of the family in the drought-stricken farming community. He’s looking into what happened there but there’s a secondary backstory as to what happened to him as a teenager.”
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk is a strong and silent type who was driven out of the town years earlier after being suspected of drowning his love interest, Ellie.
The now drought-stricken town has never forgotten the scandal and treats him with varying degrees of hostility as he unofficially investigates his friend Luke’s death and the deaths of Luke’s wife and son.
Aaron finds he must re-evaluate Ellie’s death and the players’ alibis and reassess his own relationships. His sizzling chemistry with one of Luke’s exes is a highlight of the page-turner and one sure to translate well on screen if Reese Witherspoon’s production company makes the book into a film.
Witherspoon’s company made the blockbuster Gone Girl and biopic Wild and picked up the film rights for The Dry, which also won the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript prize back in 2014.
Novelist Ann Turner courts fans of her debut The Lost Swimmer with another aquatic-themed novel, Out of the Ice (Simon & Schuster $30, ebook $10). Set in Antarctica, it features an environmental scientist, Laura Alvarado, who is doing an assessment of an abandoned island once used as a whaling station. Despite the area being closed since the 1950s, the wildlife there is acting strangely and there are signs of recent interference. Well and truly an outsider, Laura gets the feeling she is being watched, then sees an anguished figure in an ice cave. “Behind an icy wall, clear and translucent, stood a boy,
tousled dark hair, huge brown eyes, skinny arms raised high. He was calling to me through the ice, trapped like an insect in amber . . . I could see his mouth open wide in a yell. ‘ Help me!’”
Was he a ghost or an Antarctic worker’s child? Laura discovers other scientists unhelpful then embarks on an investigation that leads to a network of paedophiles across the world.
Turner, who is also a screenwriter, is in fine form here, exploring silence and secrets, male and female ways of relating and exploitation and grief.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx’s latest novel, Barkskins, (Harper Collins $40, ebook $15) comes out next week after a 14-year hiatus from the 80-year-old author of The Shipping News.
Proulx, also a National Book Award winner, has chosen historical fiction as her territory, setting the tale of two indentured servants in 1693 New France, a forested north American territory which later became the US and Canada.
Already sampled online in The New Yorker short story A Resolute Man, the eco-epic is attracting four stars at the website Goodreads, and is being praised as a passionate and insightful exploration of family survival in hostile territory.
‘Turner, who is also a screenwriter, is in fine form here.’
Journalist-to-novelist Jane Harper.