The Lost Man by Jane Harper: Blog Tour Review

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

The Lost Man

Little, Brown|7 February 2019 |384 pages|e-book |Review copy|4.5*

As I loved Force of Nature by Jane Harper I was absolutely delighted when Caollin Douglas at Little, Brown Publishing asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for Jane Harper’s latest book, The Lost Man. I wasn’t disappointed – I loved it.

Blurb:

Did Cameron walk to his death under the unrelenting sun of the Australian Outback? If not, what happened? Set in the unfamiliar, isolating and disorientating landscape of the Outback, The Lost Man combines intrigue, surprise and intellect to create a gripping and thrilling narrative.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that 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 choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

My thoughts:

This is essentially a family drama and is very much character-driven, set in an isolated part of Australia hundreds of miles from anywhere and revolving around the death of Cameron Bright. There are three Bright brothers – Nathan the oldest, then Cameron and the youngest brother, Bub. They have a vast cattle ranch in the Queensland outback. 

The book begins with the discovery of Cameron’s body lying at the the base of the headstone of the stockman’s grave – a headstone standing alone, a metre high, facing west, towards the desert, in a land of mirages. It provides the only bit of shade for miles around. He had obviously died an agonising death in the intense forty-five degrees of heat, crawling round the headstone in search of its shade as the earth rotated around the sun. Nathan and Bub meet at the site and can’t understand why he was there – his car was found several kilometres away and at first they assumed he had just walked away to end his life, but that didn’t seem to make sense. Nathan just can’t believe Cameron would do that. There is little actual police investigation and so Nathan delves into the past on his own looking for answers. He is astonished at what he finds.

Nathan is a solitary man, divorced and living alone, a three hours’ drive from the rest of the family. There is a mystery surrounding his isolation not just from his family but also from the small town, three hours drive away. Whereas, Cameron, who took over the ranch after his father died, is well liked, married with two little girls. The youngest brother, Bub, meanwhile is an angry young man, resentful of the way Cameron runs the business, mainly because he thinks his views are being ignored. As Nathan tries to fathom what had happened hidden passions and resentments begin to surface and it becomes clear that this is a dysfunctional family. He realises there was a lot about his family he had never known.

Throughout the book the Australian outback looms large, a huge and isolated territory, red earth stretching for hundreds of miles, with its unbearable heat, dust and, at times, the threat of flood. But it’s the characters, as their past history and relationships are exposed and they became real personalities, that made the book such compelling reading for me. I liked the storytelling, the details of the legends surrounding the stockman, the drama of the family grieving over Cameron’s death – and the mystery of his death – was it suicide or murder, and if it was murder who had killed him and why?

It’s a powerful and absorbing book and after I finished it I wondered about the title – just which one of the men was the ‘Lost Man‘. I’m still not sure, maybe they all were …

Blog tour banners

Source: Review copy as part of The Lost Man blog tour, via NetGalley– Thank you.

About the Author

Australian Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man, The Dry and Force of Nature

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

You can find out more by visiting Jane’s website and finding her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter @janeharperautho.

Challenges:

When Are You Reading? Challenge 2019

Here’s another challenge I can’t ignore! It’s hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.  It involves reading a book predominantly set in each of the twelve time periods.

I read a lot of historical fiction so I’m hoping I’ll find a book for each of these periods.

  • Pre-1300:
  • 1300-1499:
  • 1500-1699:
  • 1700-1799:
  • 1800-1899:
  • 1900-1919:
  • 1920-1939:
  • 1940-1959:
  • 1960-1979:
  • 1980-1999:
  • 2000-Present:
  • The Future:

Determination of what year a book belongs in is the decision of the participant. On the whole, choose a year where the largest part of the action occurs or the most important event.

 

The Classics Club Spin

It’s time for another  Classics Club Spin. By 27 November compile a Spin List of twenty ‘chunkster’ books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

spinning book

On Tuesday 27th November, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st January, 2019.

I have only 18 unread books left on my list – and not all of them are ‘chunksters’! So, I’ve repeated two titles (that are ‘chunksters’) to make the numbers up to 20 – Parade’s End and Little Dorrit.

  1. Greenmantle by John Buchan
  2. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
  3. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  4. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  5. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  6. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  7. The Forsyte Saga (1) : The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
  8. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  9. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  10. Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill
  11. Three Man in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  12. Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
  13. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  14. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  15. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  16. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers
  17. The Shadow Puppet by Georges Simenon
  18. The Saint- Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon
  19. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  20. The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

I don’t mind which one I get especially as there is more time than usual for a Spin and I hope to read them all at some time.

My Life in Books 2017

I saw this on Reading, Writing, Working, Playing‘s blog and thought I’d do my own version, based on books I’ve read in 2017. It’s another way at looking back at the books.

  • In high school I was: The One That Got Away (Annabel Kantaria)
  • People might be surprised Sometimes I Lie  (Alice Feeney)
  • I will never be: An Artist of the Floating World (Kazuo Ishiguro)
  • My fantasy job is: (at) The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy)
  • At the end of a long day I need: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar (Chris Packham)
  • I hate it when: The Devil Rides Out (Dennis Wheatley)
  • Wish I had: (the) Missing Pieces (Heather Gudenkauf)
  • My family reunions are: Extraordinary People (Peter May)
  • At a party you’d find me with: The Man Who Climbs Trees (James Aldred)
  • I’ve never been to: Birdcage Walk (Helen Dunmore)
  • A happy day includes: A Dedicated Man (Peter Robinson)
  • Motto I live by: Don’t Let Go (Harlan Coben)
  • On my bucket list is:  How to Stop Time (Matt Haig)
  • In my next life, I want to have: The  Waters of Eternal Youth ( Donna Leon)

What’s your Year in Books been like? Do let me know.

Malice in Wonderland by Nicholas Blake

A Golden Age Mystery

Published: 2017, Ipso Books. First published in 1940, Collins UK (The Crime Club)

Source: Review copy via NetGalley

My rating: 4*

I really enjoyed Malice in Wonderland by Nicholas Blake*. It’s a Golden Age mystery first published in the UK in 1940; in the US as The Summer Camp Mystery, later in 1971 as Malice with Murder; and in 1987, as Murder with Malice.

There are several allusions to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The train to Wonderland plunges into a tunnel, just as Alice enters Wonderland through a rabbit hole. But in this case Wonderland is a holiday camp, set on a cliff top overlooking the sea. And all is not well in Wonderland as there is a prankster in the camp , the self-styled ‘Mad Hatter’, who is playing nasty and cruel practical jokes on the holiday makers. Swimmers are ducked in the sea and held down, tennis balls are coated in treacle, left with a note that refers to a part of dormouse’s story in Alice in Wonderland. Then the jokes get more dangerous. The camp’s owners are concerned not just for the guests but also for their business as they fear a rival firm with a grudge against the company is trying to ruin them.

There are hundreds of visitors at Wonderland, but the action revolves around a few characters including Paul Perry, a young man who calls himself a scientist, but who is there taking notes for the Mass Observation project, Mr and Mrs Thistlethwaite and their teenage daughter, Sally, Albert Morley, a timid little man, brothers Mortimer and Teddy Wise, the camp’s managers, their secretary Esmeralda Jones and Nigel Strangeways, a private detective.

Like other Golden Age mysteries, Malice in Wonderland presents a puzzle, plenty of suspects, clues planted along the way and a detective who solves the puzzle. It also presents a picture of life just before the Second World War, the social attitudes and in particular the beginnings of the holiday camps. By the 1930s there were several camps, including Warners and Butlins, at seaside locations. Wonderland has dining-halls presenting food cooked by London chefs, a ballroom, bars, an indoor swimming-bath, a concert hall, a gymnasium and numerous playrooms, plus a programme of entertainment with professional hosts and hostesses. It’s described as ‘the biggest, brightest and most ambitious of all the holiday camps that had sprung up over England during the last year or two.’

I loved the setting, the interesting characters, and the fiendishly difficult mystery to solve (I only solved it just before the denouement). And it’s well written with humour and style.

*Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis (1904 – 1972), one of the leading British poets of the 1930s. He published his first Nigel Strangeways detective novel, A Question of Proof in 1935. Malice in Wonderland is the 6th in the series.

My thanks to the publisher for a digital ARC via NetGalley.

Amazon UK