Monday 11 February 2019

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

review by Maryom

When Cameron Bright is found dead, parched and burned by the unremitting Australian sun, everyone, including the police, is inclined to dismiss it as suicide or misadventure - for whatever reason, he had become stranded in this spot with no shelter and no way of calling for help. But his brother Nathan isn't convinced. He feels that, like any rancher in the area, Cameron was well aware of the danger of being stranded in open, arid country without shelter and water; it's a fact of life in the Australian outback, and drilled into the locals from childhood. And, besides, Cameron's 4x4 was found comparatively nearby, stocked with food and water, and with a radio to call for help. Surely he couldn't have just wandered off, and got lost? Nathan can't believe his brother would have made such a mistake, nor have chosen this horrific way of taking his own life.

This isn't a classic detective story. The police aren't concerned about the circumstances surrounding Cameron's death. Most of his family, despite being in shock and grieving, seem happy to accept the police verdict. Nathan alone seems to have doubts.

Despite having always lived in the area Nathan is an outsider. He set up on his own ranch when he got married, and since his wife left him has lived a completely solitary life, with occasional visits from his son, Xander, and irregular contact with his family - despite being neighbours, they live three hours apart. Now, in the period up to Cam's funeral, he's forced to stay with them, and gradually comes to see they're not quite how they appeared from a distance. Cameron has certainly been hiding nasty secrets beneath a pleasant appearance, but would any of these things be enough to kill him for?

The Lost Man is certainly a compelling read - I picked it up again while writing this review to check a few details, and got sucked into re-reading far more than necessary - but what lingers in my mind is the depiction of these remote cattle stations, small oases in the middle of an arid landscape, the isolation of the families living there, easily not seeing 'outsiders' for weeks at a stretch, and in Nathan's case not seeing ANYONE. It's a way of life that seems impossible to cope with, and one in which dark deeds can easily be hidden.

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - 
Little, Brown
Genre -adult, crime, Australia

Monday 4 February 2019

And The Wind Sees All by Gudmundur Andri Thorsson

translated by Andrew Cauthery and Bjorg Arnadottir

review by Maryom

Late in the day, the mist rolls in from the sea over the Icelandic fishing village of Valeyri, and with it comes the wind, finding its way into the houses it passes and seeking out secrets ...

For now though the sun is shining. Kata, the conductor of the village choir, cycles through the village on her way to a performance they're to stage that evening. To all appearances, she seems the perfect image of a carefree young woman, but behind her cheerful exterior lies a story of pain and heartbreak. In the houses she passes people stop for a second to watch her go by, and their stories too are revealed as the mist comes creeping in. 

There's an odd mix of cosy and chilling about this Icelandic tale. Superficially the village and its inhabitants seem serene, comfortable, respectable, agreeable. But that isn't the whole story. When the wind blows through, the mask slips, the curtain lifts, and for a few seconds we see what lies behind the happy, smiling faces. The snapshots of life show old friends meeting for dinner, a poet waiting for inspiration, a forgetful old man wandering the streets; little moments of their days when they reminisce on past troubles. Kata's story is the most disturbing of all, but others hide heartache, loss, deceit.
Underlying it all, though, is an unfailing warmth. Maybe despite our many faults, and the shocks and disappointments doled out by life, people and life are basically good, after all

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - Peirene Press
Genre - Adult Translated Fiction