The Lost Man follows on the heels of Jane Harper’s two previous crime fiction novels set in the Australian outback – Force of Nature and The Dry. But unlike those two, this novel does not feature her detective Aaron Falk. The Lost Man’s setting feels even more remote and desolate than those previous titles.
The story revolves around three brothers, and their immediate relations across two farms in the particularly harsh world that they live in. One of the brothers, Cameron, has been found dead at the remote Stockman’s Grave site, leaving his vital lifeline – his yute – some distance from where his body was found. It makes no sense; an experienced farmer, he would never venture on foot into the dangerous heat without supplies and water. It breaks every rule that they’ve been taught. So what’s happened?
The story is told from the perspective of another of the brothers, Nathan, who lives alone on his farm, struggling to make ends meet, separated from his wife, and only occasionally seeing his son who lives hours away in the city. He’s even separated from the local town, after an incident years earlier saw him shunned by the locals.
Harper paints an incredible picture of the harsh reality of life in this remote part of the world, where nothing can be taken for granted, and things like food, water, power or internet access can be limited and to be treated seriously. This is an environment where you have to carry spare supplies in your vehicle whenever you go anywhere. It all feels incredibly real.
Set amidst all this is a delicious story of families and recent history, all told and structured beautifully. I absolutely loved this book.