The Dry was a novel that seemed to pop up everywhere. Yes, it was another novel where a policeman generously decided to investigate a murder without officially being required to do so, but I swear that premise just never gets old. Here, Aaron Falk returned to the small town where he grew up upon the death of his childhood friend, Luke. Although it appeared that Luke murdered his wife and child, and then committed suicide, Aaron didn’t believe that to be the case and was quick to agree to investigate the deaths. The real draw to this novel was the complex history Aaron had not only with Luke, but with the town in general. As a teenager, Aaron had been good friends with Luke, and two other girls, Gretchen and Ellie. When Ellie was found dead in the river, Aaron became a suspect when his name was discovered scrawled on a piece of paper in her pocket. The townspeople all became suspicious of Aaron, and to avoid further scrutiny, his father decided that they needed to leave town. But leaving the way he did as a teen meant that many of the townspeople had unresolved feelings toward Aaron and continued to question his involvement in Ellie’s death.
That background was a fascinating premise for the current deaths of Luke and his family, because it forced Aaron to revisit his youthful relationship with both Luke and Ellie. More importantly, someone in the town knew that Aaron lied about his alibi during the time Ellie died, and used that blackmail to lure Aaron back to town. The flashbacks to the time surrounding Ellie’s death provided a glimpse into the personalities of Aaron and Luke.
I liked how the author crafted so many different characters in the town, all of whom had distinct personalities and voices. They each had their own secrets that motivated their reaction to Luke’s death. Although this novel was set in Australia, the setting was not overly prominent to the story. Really, this could have been set in any small town where the people were consumed by a drought that was impacting their ability to farm and causing them financial hardships.
Surprisingly, this had an intricate plot that utilized the emotional guilt held by Aaron since he was a teen. I was pleased to discover that this is the first novel in a series that will star Aaron. I will be sure to pick up the next book featuring Aaron.