I am delighted to be on The Lost Man Blog tour today.
Jane Harper’s The Dry was a sensational work of crime fiction and her second Aaron Falk novel The Force of Nature proved she’s our favourite Aussie Crime Queen. Now with her third book, The Lost Man, Harper is giving us a standalone mystery thriller which swirls around the lives of three brothers and their pasts. Three brothers and one of them is dead. Remaining two try to discover the reasons behind their brothers’ untimely death.
Did Cameron walk to his death under the unrelenting sun of the Australian Outback? If not, what happened? Set in the unfamiliar, isolating and disorientating landscape of the Outback, The Lost Man is surely a mysterious story with Harper’s solid and powerful narration.
Today on my blog I am so happy to share the Prologue of this book with you so you can have a bite and then maybe do an emergency run to the bookshop… Challenge accepted?
I am also doing a giveaway on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/Btp6bERnwuU/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=iwirg4mmfw22 for a finished Hardcover copy of this book and yes, it’s International!
I hope you enjoy the prologue and please visit the other stops of the blog tour! There are some fabulous reviews out there ❤
From above, from a distance, the marks in the dust formed a tight circle. The circle was far from perfect, with a distorted edge that grew thick, then thin and broke completely in places.
It also wasn’t empty.
In the centre was a headstone, blasted smooth by a hundred-year assault from sand, wind and sun. The headstone stood a metre tall and was still perfectly straight. It faced west, towards the desert, which was unusual out there. West was rarely anyone’s first choice.
The name of the man buried beneath had long since vanished and the landmark was known to locals – all sixty-five of them, plus 100,000 head of cattle – simply as the stockman’s grave. That piece of land had never been a cemetery; the stockman had been put into the ground where he had died, and in more than a century no-one had joined him.
If a visitor were to run their hands over the worn stone, a partial date could be detected in the indentations. A one and an eight and a nine, maybe – 1890-something. Only three words were still visible. They had been carved lower down, where they had better shelter from the elements. Or perhaps they had been chiselled more deeply to start with; the message deemed more important than the man. They read:
who went astray
Months, up to a year even, could slip away without a single visitor passing by, let alone stopping to read the faded inscription or squint west into the afternoon sun. Even the cattle didn’t linger. The ground was typically sandy and sparse for eleven months of the year and hidden under murky floodwater for the rest. The cows preferred to wander north, where the pickings were better and trees offered shade.
So the grave stood mostly alone, next to a thin three-wire cattle fence. The fence stretched a dozen kilometres east to a road and a few hundred west to the desert, where the horizon was so flat it seemed possible to detect the curvature of the earth. It was a land of mirages, where the few tiny trees in the far distance shimmered and floated on non-existent lakes.
There was a single homestead somewhere to the north of the fence, and another to the south. Next-door neighbours, three hours apart. The road to the east was invisible from the grave itself. And road was a generous description. The wide dirt track could sit silent for days without being troubled by a vehicle.
The track eventually led to the town of Balamara – a single street, really – which catered loosely for a scattered population that could almost fit into one large room when gathered together. Fifteen hundred kilometres further east lay Brisbane and the coast.
At scheduled times during the year, the sky above the stockman’s grave would vibrate with the roar of a helicopter. The pilots worked the land from the air, using noise and movement to herd cattle over distances the size of small European countries. For now, though, the sky loomed empty and large.
Later – too late – a helicopter would fly over, deliberately low and slow. The pilot would spot the car first, with its hot metal winking. The grave, some distance away, would draw his attention only by chance as he circled around and back in search of a suitable landing site. The pilot would not see the dust circle. It was the flash of blue material against the red ground that would catch his eye. A work shirt, unbuttoned and partially removed. The temperature the past few days had hit forty-five degrees at the afternoon peak. The exposed skin was sun-cracked. Later, those on the ground would see the thick and thin marks in the dust and would fix their eyes on the distant horizon, trying not to think about how they had been made. The headstone threw a small shadow. It was the only shade in sight and its blackness was slippery, swelling and shrinking as it ticked around like a sundial. The man had crawled, then dragged himself as it moved. He had squeezed into that shade, contorting his body into desperate shapes, kicking and scuffing the ground as fear and thirst took hold.
He had a brief respite as night fell, before the sun rose and the terrible rotation started again. It didn’t last as long on the second day, as the sun moved higher in the sky. The man had tried though. He had chased the shade until he couldn’t anymore. The circle in the dust fell just short of one full revolution. Just short of twenty-four hours. And then, at last, the stockman finally had company, as the earth turned and the shadow moved on alone, and the man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.