Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on a single day when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that haunts him still resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home.
Kieran’s parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother Finn.
When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge in the murder investigation that follows. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…
I’m a big fan of Jane Harper’s novels and was thrilled when I heard about her new standalone novel, The Survivors, which turned out to be every bit as good as I was expecting.
The novel follows Kieran Elliott as he returns to his hometown of Evelyn Bay, Tasmania to help his parents move. He brings with him his girlfriend, Mia – also originally from Evelyn Bay – and their three-month-old daughter, Audrey. His homecoming is bittersweet – it’s an opportunity to catch up with friends and family, and yet the location is one that is full of memories – particularly of the day twelve years earlier when his brother, Finn, died in tragic circumstances. Circumstances that Kieran – and some of the local community – believe he is responsible for. When a young woman, Bronte, is found dead on the shore, an investigation is initiated, and it seems that the past is about to be dug up.
In a place like Evelyn Bay, people knew each other’s business.
I love the small-town setting of Evelyn Bay – a place that’s small enough for everyone to know everyone else’s business, whether they like it or not. As the investigation gets underway, the town initially pulls together, particularly as the case is assigned to a detective from out of town. While this is quite common in such novels – the small community, unwilling to help the authorities out of loyalty or some such – I think that Harper delivers something a little different here, because while the community initially draws together, as the police begin to pull at the loose threads, the locals turn on each other, airing their grievances and revealing the secrets they keep – mostly irrelevant – before they can be discovered via the investigation, and Harper perfectly captures the erosion of trust in the community.
The truth hurts a lot of people.
As the investigation in Bronte’s death continues, the reader sees flashbacks from various characters to the tragic events of twelve years ago, and it’s clear that there is more to be cleared up than Bronte’s death. If you’re familiar with Harper’s novels, you’ll know that she writes a good mystery, and this novel is no exception. There are red herrings aplenty, and while I didn’t have a clue “whodunnit”, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the mystery unravel.
Grief and guilt are key themes throughout the novel for most characters, but particularly for Kieran, who believes himself responsible for Finn’s death – a burden that he’s learned to cope with, but one that he expects to carry for the rest of his life. I felt a huge amount of sympathy for Kieran, who seems to have grown into a pleasant individual, even if he was a bit of a lad when he was younger. I felt that he didn’t deserve the burden he carried and hoped that he’d find some resolution through the events in the novel. As with Harper’s other novels, location is also a key feature, and it was interesting to see her move away from the Australian outback to the harsh and unforgiving Tasmanian coast. It’s a setting that works brilliantly, and one that is brought vividly to life for the reader – you can practically taste the salt in the air!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Survivors, and highly recommend it to fans of Jane Harper as well as those who may just be discovering this wonderful author. The Survivors is published by Little, Brown, and is available to purchase now in digital and audio formats. The hardback is scheduled for release in January 2021.
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