mystery/thriller, review

Review: The Survivors by Jane Harper

I have seen a lot of hype surrounding Jane Harper’s previous books, particularly The Dry. I knew that I should check them out as I enjoy a good mystery and all the reviews I had seen where full of praise. I decided to try out the latest release on Netgalley and I am so glad I did. Spoiler alert: a lot more praise coming from me.

Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets…

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn. When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

It is a common trope or story telling device to establish the narrator of the book as someone who either doesn’t know about past events or as an unreliable narrator who could be lying to the reader. One of the things that makes a mystery book stand out for me is how unpredictable plot is. I really enjoy being completely in the dark about what is going on with only scant clues to keep me intrigued. The Survivors hit that preference on the nail for me.

Kieran hoped the numbness would set in soon. The ocean’s icy burn usually mellowed into something more neutral, but as the minutes ticked by he still felt cold. He Braced himself as a fresh wave broke against his skin. The water wasn’t even too bad, he told himself. Not at the tail end of the summer with the afternoon sun doing its best to take the edge off. Definitely goosebumps rather than the hypothermia. Kieran knew he had personally described water far colder than this as ‘nice’. Only ever here in Tasmania, though, where sea temperatures surrounding the small island were relative.

Our plot revolves around a group of friends who have known each other for decades and all grew up in the same town. Kieran returns with his girlfriend and newborn daughter to help his parents as they prepare to move, but when he meets back with his friends he is confronted by just how relevant his traumatic past seems to be.

The characters felt more developed than in other mystery novels I have read in the past. It must be difficult to write a short book that balances a larger cast and manage to make each of the characters feel like you could pluck them off the page and into real life. Due to that difficult balance, I normally don’t put the same emphasis on characterisation in my reviews and generally allow the plot to make up for the difference. With The Survivors I would not need to make that change.

But no, Kieran was serious. Because all he could think of was Finn’s warning. If you’re in here at high tide, you are not coming out.

The characters were multifaceted and flawed. Due to the more lifelike characters it was harder to predict the direction the story was taking. There were so many potential people who could be hiding things, it really felt predicting the plot would be a waste of time.

I flew through this book and absolutely loved it. I read it towards the end of 2020 and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since finishing. I can see myself reading more from Jane Harper.

★★★★★

This was one of my top mystery books of the year. Do you read a lot of mystery or thriller books?

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