Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper

 Kieran Elliott is on a rare visit home to the small Tasmanian coastal town he grew up in, where he's still remembered as the person responsible for the deaths of his older brother and his brother's best mate in a freak storm twelve years previously. On the same night a young teenager went missing, presumed washed out to sea, and the town has struggled to forget the three fatalities. 

Now tragedy is ready to strike again. Another body is found on the beach, this time a student working on the island for the summer. There seems at first to be nothing to link this death with previous events, but the past has a way of returning to haunt the community.

Part whodunit, part a study in long-term grief, The Survivors looks at the impact on a small close-knit community of a night which robbed them of three young people. For the close families the loss will never go away, but in a hurry to smooth things over it seems the police may not have investigated quite as strenuously as they might.

Although I've rather 'gone off' crime recently, a Jane Harper novel is always something to look forward to. To me, there's always quite a feel of a Miss Marple mystery about them; the tight communities where everyone knows everything about their neighbour (or thinks they do), the buried secrets that nevertheless manage to persist, the limited number of suspects, the red herrings that confuse detection. There are no psychopaths or serial killers, just 'normal' people driven to murder for very human reasons - of love, anger, or fear. 

There's just no replacement for Jane Marple as each story takes the reader to a different part of Australia. and this time the backdrop feels almost familiar - an out-of-season coastal town, dependent on tourists for livelihood, but with a beautiful setting of beaches, dramatic cliffs, and dangerous caves.

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