The Survivors by Jane Harper: A review

 

I had been looking forward to Jane Harper's next Australian mystery and so I pounced on this one as soon as it was published. It did not disappoint.

Harper's books are often set in some of the bleakest places Australia has to offer, such as the Outback. This one takes us to Tasmania, to a little town on the coast called Evelyn Bay. It is the town where Kieran Elliot grew up and where twelve years before he was involved in a tragedy that changed his and several other lives forever. 

Since then he had moved to Sydney and made a new life for himself with his girlfriend, Mia. They now have a young baby daughter. But Kieran and his family have been drawn back to Evelyn Bay and all the memories it holds by the needs of his parents. His father, Brian, is suffering from dementia, and his mother, Verity, is no longer able to care for him at home. He will have to go into a care home that is able to deal with his problems. Kieran is there to help with the transition.

When Kieran meets some of his old mates at the Surf & Turf, all the bad memories from twelve years ago are brought back. Back then he had been infatuated with Olivia and they would meet in a cave on the coast for hanky-panky. One day they met there oblivious to the fact that high tide was coming and although Olivia made it out, Kieran was trapped and in danger of being drowned. Olivia put out a distress call, and Kieran's brother and his brother's best friend who were out in their boat turned to try to rescue him. The boat foundered in the huge wave and both men were killed. 

Meanwhile, a 14-year-old girl named Gabby was also out there somewhere and was trapped by the wave. Her body was never found, but her backpack washed ashore, and she was presumed drowned. Kieran was finally able to scramble out and lived to blame himself for his brother's death. So did many others, including the young son of his brother's friend who died with him. 

The tragedy of the three deaths was almost more than the town could bear.  When Kieran returns to the town years later, the son of his brother's friend is now working at the Surf & Turf and his resentment of Kieran has not lessened. Working alongside him at the pub is a young woman named Bronte who also happens to be Olivia's roommate. The next day, Bronte's body is found along the shore. She had been murdered. Was her death somehow related to the deaths from years ago? She was new to the town and appeared to have no enemies. Who would have wanted to kill her?

Harper develops her narrative with care and at times I was flummoxed, wondering how does all of this connect? But in the end, it did and I appreciated her multi-layered characterizations and the realism with which she depicted a family and a town struggling with grief. The broken lives, especially that of Kieran, were described so honestly and genuinely that one could easily relate to the pain which they felt. When a visitor to the town provides an explanation that offers some reprieve to Kieran's pain, it also offers a sigh of relief for the reader. 

The ending, not to give away any spoilers, is emotional and utterly heartbreaking. But perhaps the town of Evelyn Bay as well as Kieran and his family can finally heal.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Comments

  1. This sounds really good! That cover is also stunning! Is this part of a series or can I read it as a standalone?

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    1. I meant to ask you how you have fared during the winter storm. Did you lose power, water or any other life threatening horrors and how are you doing now?

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    2. Thank you for asking. We're okay. Our power was out for ten hours on Tuesday and we've had a couple of outages - one for two hours and one for 30 minutes - since then. We spent a few hours in the dark and cold, most of it at night, but we have a generator (which we never fired up) and a fireplace so we were never in danger of being completely without heat. Our younger daughter, who lives in Northwest Houston, fared worst in our family. Her power was out for more than a day initially and she later had a three hour outage. But we are all alive and well, warm and fed, at least for the moment, so we are so much better off than so many of our neighbors. My heart breaks for them.

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    3. Like Judy, I was wondering how you were faring with the winter storm. I'm glad to hear you are doing okay. Praying for all those in Texas right now. The winter storm system sounds really bad.

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    4. Thank you for your concern. The storm has been really bad, but the worst thing is that is was totally predictable and the state was utterly unprepared which is all down to the people who have "governed" the state for the last 25 years. We can only hope that voters remember this experience when they go to the polls once again.

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    1. Then I think you would really appreciate Harper's books.

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  4. This is an author I need to get to. Unfortunately, I tried her first book in audio but returned it unread because of the accent. I want to get the print editions. Glad this one is a standalone as I'm trying not to start more new series. I was happy to read you enjoyed it so much.

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    1. I seldom do audio books, except on long road trips, which I haven't had lately. I prefer to have printed editions so that I can imagine my own accents!

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  5. Sounds like another wonderful read. Jane Harper is an author I keep hearing great things about. I'll have to read one of her novels.

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    1. She is a really good writer. Her characters are always believable and relatable and her descriptions of the areas that she writes about, particularly the Outback, just make you feel as though you are there.

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  6. I think I read one of her books a few months ago and liked it. It was the one about the company going on a team-building retreat and the guys made it out but the women didn't and one died? I like her writing style, I will give this one a try.

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    1. Yes, I read that one last year. I like her writing style also. She excels at developing her plots and at describing her characters in such a way that they really come alive for the reader.

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  7. Wow did you like this one better than her others? I have read her three others -- so I will get to this one. I'm really glad it held up for you. .... that bodes well for me.

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    1. I can't really say that I liked this one better than the others. I've liked them all. I just really like her writing.

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  8. Thanks - you made me want to read this. Cheers

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