The Survivors by Jane Harper Review

The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
September 2020
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Readership: Adult
Genre: Suspense
Rating: ★★★★★


I received a copy of The Survivors from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

Fair warning: in the last eight months I’ve become obsessed with Jane Harper’s books and practically inhaled her first three books and then got very excited when I found out her fourth book was being released this year. (This was great, because I didn’t have to wait too long!) And… there may have been a lot of happy dancing around my apartment when I was approved for a review copy from Netgalley.

The Survivors is, like all of Harper’s previous books, a murder mystery set in a small Australian town. Set in the small coastal Tasmanian town of Beauty, Kieran Elliott has returned home with his wife and baby to help his parents move from his childhood home, all the while haunted by a terrible tragedy in his past. Still struggling with the guilt from his childhood, Kieran begins to question what he knows about the events that took place and the things he thought to be true when the body of young woman washes up on the beach.

Of all of Harper’s books, The Survivors most mirrors The Dry – in terms of story elements and plot. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because there is a lot to love in The Dry and looking back on my reading experience, they were the same things I really liked in her newest release.

We follow the story through Kieran’s perspective; it’s his thoughts, experiences and inner-monologue that guides us through each event as he begins to piece together things that happened in his past and how they relate to what’s happening in his childhood town. A bit like Aaron Falk, Kieran is something of an outcast in his hometown, the tragedy from his childhood that impacted on his own family and others following him into adulthood. He’s uneasy there, and thus, when faced with the questions surrounding the death of the girl on the beach, driven to find out what happened.

Despite Kieran being the protagonist, in Harper’s books the biggest character is always the setting – the place where we find ourselves. Tasmania is a big a sharp detour from the harsh conditions of the Australian outback, but they’re no less perilous. Harper has recreated the coastal town, and the hazards of living there (particularly during storms), and as a reader you’re always cognisant that the town is as much a character as any of the people in the story.

The many characters surrounding Kieran are well-fleshed out, from his young family whom he has rebuilt his life with, to his parents – his father suffering from dementia and his mother caught up in her own grief over the past and the present – and all of the people in the town, be they friends, former friends or people who look on him with distrust. Each one is a fully-realised person within the narrative and as everyone’s secrets are revealed, it does become a guessing game as to who might have been responsible for this current mystery.

I was hooked from page one and I couldn’t put the book down, and I can’t wait for the release later in September so I can order a copy and reread it.

One Reply to “The Survivors by Jane Harper Review”

  1. I too have been a fan of Jane Harper’s books and the disarmingly innocuous way they draw the reader into seemingly impenetrable mysteries. Notably, the two most recent have involved a relatively small number of characters, this being limited by the settings in which the action takes place. The cast of ‘The Survivors’ is larger, but I was annoyed by two things: firstly, I had to think hard to remember who was who and where they fitted into the picture (especially as there seemed to be quite a number of convenient coincidences tying them together; secondly, and perhaps contradictorily, I had no feeling that there were any other people than the main characters living in this, admittedly off-season town. Most significantly, the denouement all came too quickly, almost as if the author had had enough of the – no pun intended – cliff-hanging and wanted to get it over and done with. I was disappointed with ‘The Survivors’; it resembled perhaps one of G.R.Barlin’s airport thrillers more than the quality writing I had come to appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

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