The Survivors by Jane Harper

Posted On 1 February 2021

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SurvivorsMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Small Seaside Village, Big Secrets

Well, this was my first Harper novel but it certainly won’t be my last.  To be honest, I went into this expecting a mystery and of course, essentially, this is a murder mystery but I was so pleased to find that there was much more to this than a regular whodunnit. In fact there are so many impressive elements. 

Harper successfully brings together a winning combination of excellent setting, deep character studies and slowly but surely mounting tension in a story that combines tragedy both past and present.

Kieran Elliot left his childhood home over 10 years ago not long after the death of his brother and close friend during an unexpectedly tempestuous storm.  He blamed himself for the tragedy and unable to live with the guilt left Evelyn Bay.  As the story begins Kieran has returned with his wife and new baby to help his parents move out. Obviously this return is fraught with nerves to begin with and so when the body of a young woman is found in the sea the paranoia really goes into overdrive.

In no particular order here are the things that worked really well for me.

The fact that this has a great setting.  Evelyn Bay, on the south coast of Tasmania, is a small seaside village and summertime tourist hotspot.  On the face of it this is a tight knit community but lurking beneath the surface is a seething hotbed of secrets, petty jealousies and resentments just waiting to boil over.  The coast is scattered with small bays and caves with underground caverns just begging to be explored.  Unfortunately most of these caves become fully immersed during high tide so that, coupled with the possibility of becoming lost in the myriad tunnels is a high risk.  Storm surges and sudden swells are also not unknown in fact Evelyn Bay has it’s very own sunken ship and a bronze statue that stands in the water known as The Survivors, is a testament to the dangers here.

The investigation that takes place pretty soon becomes tied to events that occurred 12 years ago during the disastrous storm and before long everyone seems to have something new to add to the story. I loved the way that we flit between the past and the present.  It shows us people in such a different light, we can see people 12 years ago, look at their relationships and see how they’ve coped with tragedy, loss and guilt.  Time has a way of altering perspectives just as death sometimes makes people see the dead through rose tinted glasses. This murder becomes the catalyst to uncover what really happened during that storm.

The characters are just really superb.  Their emotions, motivations and actions come across really well as does the dialogue and on top of that I enjoyed Kieran’s narration.

Basically, and I’m not going to elaborate too much further, this is something of a slow burn, and that really isn’t a criticism.  I loved the way the author teases out the elements of the story, throwing in red herrings along the way.  She creates the most fantastic atmosphere and describes things beautifully.

This isn’t a fast and furious murder mystery but it has plenty of intrigue, a great setting and an impressive cast.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Survivors  and will definitely look out for more work by Jane Harper.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.

My rating 4 stars