Kate’s Review: “The Lost Man”

39863488Book: “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper

Publishing Info: Flatiron Press, February 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

Review: I want to extend a thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

I was late hopping on the Jane Harper train, but now I like to think of myself as a loyal fan. Her “Aaron Falk” series has had two pretty strong installments, and given that I liked the second one more I feel/hope that the trajectory can only go up as the series goes on. What I didn’t realize was that she has also decided to write standalone novels. So when I saw that her newest book, “The Lost Man”, was available on NetGalley I assumed that I was requesting the newest Aaron Falk adventure. Once I did a little more digging I realized that it was actually a new story with whole new characters, but that was just fine by me. The description fell more in line with the kind of mystery I like anyway, less of a ‘whodunnit’ and more of a ‘dark secrets of family badness coming to light’ kind of story.

Our location is still in Australia, this time in a small outback town in North Queensland, and our story concerns the Bright Family. Three brothers grew up in this small town, Nathan, Cameron, and Bub. Cameron has been found dead, and Nathan, Bub, and the rest of the family are left to wonder why it is that Cameron ventured out into the scorching heat on his own with no supplies or transportation. From the beginning you get the feeling that there is more to the Bright family than meets the eye, and with our focus on Nathan, the oldest and one with a fair amount of baggage in his own right, the secrets start to unfold. His relationships with just about everyone in his life are filled with complications; his late father was abusive, his youngest brother Bub resents him (and he had also resented Cameron), his divorce was acrimonious and it has left his son Xander in the middle. Even his relationship with Cameron’s wife, Ilse, is a bit messy, given that Nathan had been with her first and cared for her very deeply. It hadn’t gone anywhere because of some fallout from an in the moment mistake that Nathan had to pay for dearly. Nathan is kind of a mess, but his complexity, his background, and his eagerness to do the right thing make him easy to root for. The setting is still isolating and sprawling, and the Outback itself feels like its own character. 

The mystery at the heart of “The Lost Man” is less about what happened to Cameron, though it does play a large part, and is more about what kinds of secrets Cameron and the rest of the Brights have been keeping under wraps. Nathan thinks that he knows everything there was to know about his brother, but as he digs deeper and starts to find more pieces about his life, he begins to see truths that he never wanted to see. It brings up a lot of questions and themes about family and the loyalties that we think we owe them, and how cycles and systems of abuse can take their tolls in different ways. It’s because of this focus that I found myself enjoying “The Lost Man” more than I might have enjoyed another mystery with a detective with not as much of a personal stake in the outcome. While it’s true that this isn’t another Aaron Falk story (though if you keep your eyes open you will find a connection that is buried in the narrative to Falk and his past), it’s a more powerful and gripping story because it feels more urgent. It goes to show that Harper can create characters and settings outside the story that put her on the map, and is a testament to her skills.

“The Lost Man” was very enjoyable and suspenseful read. The twists and turns weren’t severe, but they had bite to them. I’m pleased to see that Harper is able to flex beyond what could be trappings of a notable series, and while I’m excited for the next Aaron Falk novel, now I’m also excited to see what her next standalone might be!

Rating 8: A dark and tangled mystery that raises questions about family loyalty, “The Lost Man” is an engrossing and powerful standalone from Jane Harper.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Lost Man” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best New Australian Fiction 2018”, and “Great New Thrillers and Suspense for 2018”.

Find “The Lost Man” at your library using WorldCat!

6 thoughts on “Kate’s Review: “The Lost Man””

  1. I am trying to find discusion questions to lead a book club meeting on the Lost Man? I enjoyed the book very much, but I need help in forming questions to talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you find any discussion questions??
      I am trying to find questions too. can you publish your questions?


    2. I couldn’t find any discussion questions for my book club so wrote the following, based on my take of the book and reviews:

      Author: Jane Harper
      ISBN: 9781743549100
      Publication Date: October 23, 2018

      1. What did you think of the book?
      (a) Did you expect the ending? Was it predictable?
      (b) Do you like her style of writing?
      (c) Did the book drag on at times with repetition?

      2. What do you think are the main themes of the book:
      (a) Isolation of Australian outback
      (b) Abuse of wives, children
      (c) Unspoken words of abuse
      (d) Small country town lives and parochialism
      (e) Sibling relationships
      (f) Inheritance rights
      (g) Communication
      (h) Broken families
      (i) A love story?

      3. At the beginning of the book, did you initially think that Cameron had committed suicide?

      4. What did you think about the characters?
      (a) Were they well developed?
      (b) Did their behaviours make sense?
      (c) Quote from one review: “Were you in awe of Harper’s ability to take the character – Cameron- and build him into somebody you liked and pitied, then gradually cut him back, down by the end of the book until he was the least likable character?”
      (d) What did you think of Nathan’s character? Was his behavior believable? Do people really live in such isolation? What effect would it have on them?
      (e) What did you think of BUB?
      (f) Were Harry and Liz in a “relationship”?
      (g) What about Ilsa and the girls? Did you have sympathy for them?

      5. Should Nathan have stopped his car for the “father in law”, Keith?

      6. Do you think that there are personalities like the “father in law” who rule the roost in local towns and communities?

      7. What role did the backpackers, Simon and Kate have in the story? In what ways were they relevant to the plot?

      8. When Cameron was with Jenna at a party in town when he was 17, what role did you think of her re-emerging in later years “to wish him well” in a letter from Bali? Was this important to bring into the plot or just another “red herring” of Jane Harper’s style?

      9. Cameron’s alleged rape of Jenna? What do you think of that incident? What defines rape? Did you expect her to surface significantly in the book?
      (a) Are there now too many books on “abuse”?

      10. Did you expect more involvement by the police in the death of Cameron?
      (a) Why do you think she initially brought in the unfamiliar policeman from Brisbane rather than the local policeman Glen?
      (b) There appeared to be a serious official follow up. They must see so many suicides that they just thought that Cameron had committed suicide and was yet another statistic.
      “The lack of official follow-up added to the sense of isolation” . Comment

      11. Did you predict the ending of Liz’s involvement in Cameron’s death?
      (a) Does her past, married and abused by Carl, and seeing her son abuse his wife and daughter justify her behavior?

      12. How does Jane Harper capture the Australian outback description?

      13. Comment on the following from a review: “I also thought the ending was a little too happily ever after.”

      14. What similarities do you make with “The Dry” and “The Lost Man”?

      15. Who was “The Lost Man”?

      16. Would you recommend this book and author to others?


      1. Do you know there is a link between The Dry and the Lost Man !
        Liz in the Lost Man returned to her home shit kicker town in The Dry for the funeral of Ellie, her niece. Her brother Malcolm was Ellie’s father and reading between the lines, abused her. In The Lost Man Liz and her sons went to the funeral and saw three scared young people at the service who were Ellie’s friends and included Aaron Falk. Then at the funeral of Liz’ brother Harry says no one went but a couple of police including the past policeman of the town and another tall policeman who used to live in the town and now is in the city. (Aaron Falk) So,in her new book The Survivors, will the link and her theme continue ?


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