The Survivors – Jane Harper
Jane Harper has cemented herself as a wonderful mystery crime writer, and her latest book The Survivors is a compelling story of grief, guilt and secrets that conceal the truth of events that rocked a community twelve years previously. Kieran Elliott has returned to Evelyn Bay, a small coastal town in Tasmania with his partner Mia and their daughter Audrey. Kieran has tortured himself since the day of the storm twelve years ago when his older brother, Finn and his friend, Toby died at sea trying to rescue him from a local landmark of sea caves and sculptures, called “The Survivors”. That same day, Gabby Birch the sister of his then-girlfriend, Olivia, and the best friend of his partner, Mia, went missing also presumed dead because of the storm. Guilt and suppressed blame, hang over so many characters and it lies in wait for the moment when feelings boil over.
Kieran and Mia have returned to Evelyn Bay to help his mother, Verity, move his father, living with dementia, to a care home. The return brings Kieran into contact with old friends and acquaintances, new residents, and holiday workers. The cast of characters is intriguing, full of light and shade, ensuring that unsettling undercurrents are fed with suspicion and hidden motives.
When the body of Bronte, a holiday worker at the Surf and Turf and an artist, and close friend Liam, of the group of friends, is found on the beach not far from her home, which she also shares with Olivia, the reflections of the past come flooding back.
“ ‘The guy with the baby?’ Bronte had said at last. ‘That guy? He killed someone?’ At least she sounded doubtful, Kieran had thought. Wrongly so, but still. ‘Yeah.’ Liam was annoyed now. ‘Two people actually. One of them was my dad.’”
There are several motives and scenarios developed to keep this an intriguing mystery. Who may be responsible and why this happened just as Kieran returned home?
The local policeman, Chris Renn investigates and murder along with DI Sue Pendlebury from Hobart. Renn is an interesting character because twelve years ago he was a rookie cop and was besotted with Olivia, now he is much more assured but there are misgivings that he harbours that may shed some light on the disappearance of Gabby years ago and the latest murder of Bronte. Kieran does as much investigating as the police and through his perspective, the story is told.
Jane Harper has a wonderful ability to paint the scene so vividly that the seaside location is suffused with sights and sounds, the wind and smell of the sea, the uneasiness walking across the beach at night, and the looming threat of being stranded in the caves as the tide comes in. This is a strong characteristic of Harper’s writing and the cliché of being transported to a place seems so much more real at her hand.
There were a few aspects of the story I baulked at, such as Kieran taking his three-month-old daughter harnessed to his chest into some dangerous situations for no real reason or consequence to the story, and some of the interactions between the characters.
I would recommend this book and I would like to thank Little Brown Book UK and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review