The Survivors, by Jane Harper

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jane Harper , and Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Jane Harper is back with yet another stunning Australian thriller, sure to grab the reader from the opening pages. A small Tasmanian community is pulled into the middle of new mysteries and a man who has come back home must relive the horrors of a past he hoped to compartmentalised. Harper does it all in The Survivors, while showing how versatile she can be with a slow reveal plot and all the elements for a wonderful book.

Kieran Elliott has come back to Tasmania to visit family. Alongside him is his girlfriend, Mia, and their infant daughter. What should be an exciting time with family quickly sours when a body turns up on the shore. This stirs up memories for Kieran of an accident twelve years before, one that saw his brother and a young woman die in a storm, with the latter’s body never recovered.

As Kieran processes it all and tries to help, he must revisit many of the secrets he kept about the events in his earlier life. Everyone remembers, but no one chooses to talk about it. If that were not enough, Kieran is trying to come to term’s with his father’s early onset dementia, which does not act as a decent distraction.

As with many small towns, everyone is involved the business of others. With the dawn of social media, online posts fuel fires and reopen old wounds that were best left to heal. Kieran cannot hide from it, though he has tried to protect Mia and their daughter from as much of the blowback as possible. Still, even as a survivor from a past tragedy, Kieran has not been able to escape the tar and feathering of some locals, only leading to new questions about the most recent victim.

Jane Harper has never shied away from controversy when she writes, though she is keen to provide her own spin on things. Be it discussions about social issues, criminal matters, or the flavour of a small community, Harper is always spot-on and provides the reader with her valuable insights. This was on offer again here with a fabulous tale that patches together two time periods under a single narrative.

Kieran Elliott is a wonderful protagonist, though he seems not to want to limelight shone too intensely on him. Having left Tasmania years before, Kieran hoped to return to help his parents and introduce his own family to where he came of age. There is some backstory that weaves its way into the piece, creating the angst that projects itself in the present. There’s also a little character development for Kieran, who is forced to utilise a past he tried to ignore in order to make sense of the present. While he seeks to fade into the background, Kieran’s force is felt throughout this piece.

Harper uses strong supporting characters to tell her story as well. Without the likes of the townsfolk, there would not be that sense of ‘chit-chat’ and gossiping that are essential parts of the process. Some complement Kieran well, while others seek to offer flavouring that creates strong clashes throughout the narrative. I was eager to see both, as I felt that it added depth to the story and jolted things at those moments when the narrative slowed to a crawl.

As many have already ready, the pace of the book is not swift, by any means. However, there are times when a slowly reveal permits the reader some time to develop a connection to the story, its characters, and the subtleties of the overall narrative. Jane Harper did well with this and kept the reader guessing until the final reveal. Tasmania may be a small part of Australia, but it comers to life in this piece, with wonderful depictions and narrative flourishes. Harper keeps the reader moving along in the slow pace of the story with a mix of chapter lengths and strong moments of self-reflection. I cannot wait to see what else Jane Harper has in the works, as there is never a let down when her name appears on the cover.

Kudos, Madam Harper, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what others feel about this piece as well, since it is sure to garner some great discussions.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: