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… (From Goodreads)
Right away Jane Harper’s descriptive prose grabs your attention. You are plunged into the hot desolate landscape and have a clear image of the unforgiving Australian desert. We begin with one brother standing guard near his older brother’s dead body. Bub had to spend the night to keep dingos from Cameron’s body. In the morning Nathan Bright, the eldest in the family, arrives and asks Bub what he knows. What would bring Cameron Bright to the isolated area near the Stockman’s grave?
When Cameron didn’t turn up at Lehmann’s Hill to meet Bub an alert went out on the radio. Anyone living in that desolate part of Queensland would be on the lookout for Cameron or his truck. Dehydration can kill you quickly, as could an accident where you’d not be discovered in time. Cameron was well organized and knew the dangers and how to be prepared with a truck full of supplies. Yet here he was, near the Stockman’s Grave without water, shade or vehicle.
As you get to know the characters you realize how the three brothers were shaped, or should I say scarred, by their father Carl Bright. The revelations keep coming and you can sympathize with every single person in that family. Nathan is the main voice in this book but you do get other’s perspectives. A few characters are not likable or I should say, it’s hard to warm up to them. Yet learning their backstories made me sympathetic to them. The outback desert can be bleak place to raise a family.
In the beginning I thought it was a slow start yet I was interested and kept reading. Getting less than halfway through I couldn’t put it down. The end of just about every chapter left you wanting more. One of those books where you say, Ok after this chapter I’m going to go to bed, or do some work, or put the book aside. Nope, you just have to read one more chapter!
There’s a map – I love maps and since the places are referenced right from the beginning I was able to refer to the map and see the distances. This is important to the story to see how far it is from the Bright Homestead to the Stockman’s Grave and then to Nathan Bright’s ranch.
The Stockman’s grave is mentioned throughout and with it come various stories about who he was and how he came to be buried in the middle of the desert. Near the end Nathan tells his nieces the true story which he read at a national Library in Brisbane. I liked the story even if it was sad.
The heat – One curious thing was the mention of the heat in December, 45 degrees. I’m guessing the temperature is Celsius which means it’s 113 F. More appropriate for the hot December summer. Perhaps that wasn’t converted for the publications in the U.S.
School of Air – these days the school work and teaching is handled by video and internet, teachers able to schedule video chats. Before those amenities the School of Air was handled via radio. Children in the Outback didn’t have a convention school setting. It was up to the parents to supervise the lessons that were delivered by radio.
If you enjoyed Harper’s first book, The Dry, then I think you will like this one. I’ll read every book she writes. When I heard The Lost Man was coming out I was initially disappointed that Aaron Falk wasn’t the star character. This is a stand alone from the first two books but I liked it very much. Maybe this one will be made into a movie too. Looking forward to The Dry coming out in theaters.
Well done again, Jane Harper!
Linking up with the 2019 Aussie Author Challenge.