I hit a major milestone in 2017! I read a whopping 85 books, the most I’ve ever read in a year. I attribute this to the reading lists I prepared in advance each month using my Goodreads TBR list. I was surprised to discover many great new authors, as well as some great seasoned authors I just never got around to reading. This year I set a goal to read more non-fiction and memoirs, and it paid off, as there was one I consider one of my top all time reading experiences. (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi) Finally, although I consider myself a die-hard mystery fan, I found out that you can actually read too many psychological suspense books, which means this is the first time my top reads aren’t all thrillers. I’ve been pretty consistent with tracking what I’ve read on Goodreads so I decided to change my annual wrap-up from posting all of my 5 star reads to just writing one review of my favorite read of 2017.
My pick for best of 2017 is from debut author, Jane Harper. The Dry doesn’t seem like it should be anything spectacular. In fact, mysteries set in the Australian bushlands is starting to become sort of trendy, what with the ominous feel of the atmosphere and dangerous terrain. It is that, but what makes this book so great is the writing. Jane Harper made a career as a journalist (13 years, in fact) so she knows a thing or two about drawing the reader in. I couldn’t stop once I’d started, and had to immediately talk to my husband about it when I’d finished. I liked it so much I bought the audio version so we could listen to it during a long car trip in the summer. (It was just as good on audio, by the way!)
This story is set in the fictional town of Kiewarra. People are struggling to get by and farms are ruined during one of the worst droughts of the century. I could feel the tension among the characters in this story as Falk interacts with them. I wish I was as good with words as Harper, so I could articulate the energy you feel as you read this story. The characters are unique, the setting tense, and the plot keeps you engaged. This book really is a triple threat.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk narrates as he arrives to attend his best friend’s funeral. He hasn’t been to his hometown in twenty years, since he and his family were ran out of town over another mysterious death. When he arrives, many of the locals do not welcome him. Agent Falk isn’t planning on staying to investigate, but once he arrives for the funeral, the victim’s family convinces him to stay and find out the truth. It doesn’t take long for him to learn that what local authorities call a “suicide” could be murder. As Falk interacts with old friends, neighbors, and a local detective, the story builds into a perfect mystery!
An interesting tidbit you won’t likely find in other police procedural mysteries is the starring agent is in the Forensic Accounting unit. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this specialty being used in fiction before. While he doesn’t use his specialty in the beginning of the story, surprisingly, he is able to draw on some of his experience in that area to help solve the murder. I thought it was a unique association to add in what could have been a predictable plot.
I suppose it isn’t much of a surprise that my top pick of the year is a suspense/thriller. I always enjoy reading a good mystery, but this is on a different level. It will appeal to both serious readers and those looking for a good beach read. I think it’s universally appealling and is a guaranteed winner for all readers.