Monday, May 13, 2024

Book Review: The Survivors

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...

The Survivors by Jane Harper was published in September 2020 by Flatiron Books.

Recently out in a mass-market paperback, I picked this title for our montly Mystery Book Discussion at my library branch. Set in Australia, it sounded like it had a nice hook that my group might enjoy.

The story starts out a bit slow, having to set up the various relationships and the whole small-town vibe where everybody knows everybody. It isn't until the body is discovered that everything starts to kick in. Old secrets and the past start to surface. It is from this point onward that the story really engaged me as potential suspects began to emerge from the large cast of locals. I will admit the ending revelation was not what I expected, but I found it very satisfying.

The small-town setting is actually a nice play upon the old "locked room" mystery model. The only slight variant is that no one is actually prohibited from leaving. Seeing that most of the residents have lived there all their lives, the "isolation" is really self-imposed. It reminds me, in some ways, of growing up in a small-town myself and how insular communities like the one in this novel can be.I also appreciated the subtle commentary with the online community forum.

One thing I am not a fan of is how Harper weaves in the flashbacks. There are spots where she jumps from the present to the past multiple times within the same chapter. Reading I had to do a double-take to make sure I'm certain exactly when we are. I can't imagine how confusing the audiobook of this would be. I much preferred the approach taken near the end with chapters 38 and 40.

I definitely think my book club group will have a good discussion from this one.

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