Report on The Page Turners Meeting - Meeting, Thursday, 6 December 2018

How often do we buy/ borrow a book to read based on the reviews written on the back/inside the front cover of the book itself? The Dry had a veritable Who's Who of recommendations, including Val McDermid - "a stunningly atmospheric read" and David Baldacci - "one of the most stunning debuts I've ever read" as well as an average of 4.5 stars from 1,534 reviews on Amazon.

At our latest meeting there was an element of incredulity at the above as we settled down to review "The Dry" by Jane Harper. Set in small town Australia at a time of drought, a murder mystery unravels propped up by an abstruse event from 20 or so years previously. I felt that these historic circumstances had more teeth than the murder and could have worked into a gripping (perhaps a more psychological novel).
'The Dry'did paint a picture of the mentality of a small town with this history and personalities. The drought, whilst probably intended to suggest both a cause and effect of the murder, left few of us feeling the parched heat. The atmosphere, it was suggested, may have contributed to the flat, weak and slow characterization and plot was felt to be lumpy and contrived with the solution suddenly being revealed.
This author isn't the first to use whodunit conventions to thrust the perpetrator to the front at the last minute, but in this book it was done rather clumsily. Overall, the key features of this story appeared to be taken from a writers' 'pick and mix' list of what could be included in a crime novel.
On the plus side, the novel was easy to read. It had none of the overt horrors associated with some American and Scandi crime stories. In that sense, the story fely quite "soft", even though the events, in themselves, were horrific.
There was a range of scores from our group, with perhaps those of us who read a lot of crime books being less convinced by this story and therefore rating it quite low. We are aware that our average score of 6.4 falls quite a way below that of other reviews (The Dry was voted The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year 2017 and Reese Witherspoon has optioned the rights to the film). So, our only advice would be to read the book for yourself and see what you think.
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