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The Survivors

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Another strong entry from Jane Harper - developed characters, strong plotting, dramatic Australian setting.
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Jane Harper is one of my favorite authors and she’s done it again! Atmospheric, character-driven, suspenseful. As with her other books, she kept me guessing, and I couldn’t put it down.
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Kieran Elliot has returned home to help his parents. They are packing up their home in the coastal town and are moving to the city where Kieran's dad can get the help he needs for his memory issues. Kieran and his partner, also from his hometown, are enjoying the quiet time out of the city with their baby when a young woman's body is found on the beach. It brings up a lot of memories of Kieran's brother and the accident that claimed his life. As the police investigate the death of the young woman, evidence comes to light of that accident all those years ago. Are they connected? Will it destroy Kieran's life all over again?

The Survivors is a more than just a mystery novel. There are layers and histories to the characters that make it more. Kieran Elliot is the perfect example.  Right out of the gate the author lets you know that Kieran has "killed" somebody, and that is long before they find the woman on the beach. You are intrigued and hooked. It takes a while for what happened then, and now, to unfold. And honestly, the story drags at time. But be sure to stay with it in order to get the complete story. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 


Bottom Line - While I wanted to love The Survivors, it wasn't my favorite. Not because the mystery wasn't a good one, but because there were parts of it that just seemed to drag. I think the fast-paced nature of my recent reads made this book seem a little of draggy. 


The Survivors by Jane Harper
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Pages: 384
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 2.2.2021
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Thank you to NetGalley for the free book in exchange for an honest review. 
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I have enjoyed all of Jane Harper's books. The Survivors is another good mystery with great character development.
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4.0 - a solid mystery that kept me guessing - and Harper's descriptions made it easy to visualize the scenes
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I really liked the setting and the character development was well done.  You were really left guessing what happened the entire time.
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Have you ever regretted something in your life?  A decision or action you can’t possibly take back or change?  A choice that altered not only your life, but the lives of the people around you?  That if-only feeling fuels this story and haunts its readers long after closing the book.

The Survivors takes us to Evelyn Bay, a tight knit coastal community surrounded, supported, and trapped by the ocean, the elements, and each other.  Kieran and his partner, Mia, and their newborn baby return home for the first time in years.  The guilt remains no matter how long he stays away though.  Regret is a part of Kieran.  Ever since the storm that changed the lives of so many people in Evelyn Bay.  But when a body is found on the beach, the past resurfaces and stirs up all sorts of town secrets and truths.  Does Kieran have the strength to face his past?  Face the consequences of his actions?  After all this time, can he finally find some sense of peace and closure?

Ms. Harper delivers a picture perfect image of this community.  From the locals who remain all year to the tourists who come and go every summer.  This “weather-beaten” town and people inhabit the pages of this book.  Pitch perfect words and silences bring this world to life.  I feel like my feet were and still are firmly embedded in the sands of Evelyn Bay.  The moist air, crunch of rocks, and breaking waves all add texture to the atmosphere and setting.  But that same salt and grit exists in the people too.  These characters are living with huge weight on their shoulders.  Each and every one of them.  Whether it’s a loss of a loved one; loss of time; loss of memory; or loss of an opportunity.  Regret and guilt are there on the page in so many layers and ways.  Kieran, Mia, his parents, and friends may have survived one tragic day long ago, but it’s still haunting them.  No one has forgotten what happened.  Especially Kieran.

There were a lot of characters and twists and turns to flesh out in this story.  Unfortunately a few felt underdeveloped to me.  So many ideas and characters were thrown in to keep us guessing, but many were abandoned too soon to blow in the wind.   A couple of storylines really added bite to the action—so much so I wanted to know more.  Ached to know more!  But others needed more detail and substance.  I found myself asking why.  Why did we veer off in this direction?

One aspect really stood out to me though.  These characters may be haunted by their pasts, but they’re not the same people they were when tragedy struck.  They’ve changed.  Through it all—the pain and heartache and resentment and jealousy—they found a way to grow and survive.  We all find a way.  The question is whether the people around us can see that change?  Accept it?  Sometimes all people see is who we were and what we did oh-so long ago.

I found all of THAT in this book.  Pure power and raw emotion!  And…there’s always an element of Harper’s books I can’t explain in words.  There’s just something special living under her words and mysteries that I connect with and feel down deep.  And it remains with me.  I know I skirted around the plot and didn’t really tell you much of the mystery, but hell….I am not spoiling a Jane Harper read for you.  Go check it out!  This story’s unaddressed tensions and old open wounds will get under your skin.  So deep at times it will feel like Harper is playing with your own hidden regrets and pain.

Highly recommended.

Thank you, Flatiron and NetGalley.  Jane Harper is at the top of my list of authors to share with patrons.  I recommend her to anyone and everyone looking for a mystery.
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I've previously loved Jane Harper's books and often recommend them to library patrons, but this one just didn't feel as gripping as the others.  All the expected elements are there: strongly developed environmental aspect that's as important as any character, well-plotted mystery with enough curve-balls to keep you guessing, and "normal" human characters to make this feel less fiction and more like it could happen in any neighborhood.  This time I didn't like any of the characters and just didn't care what happened to them.

Audio narrator is excellent, male voice doing a male narrator.  

Thank you to NetGalley for and ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5 stars
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Another fine mystery from Harper full of a sense of place (this time a beach town in Tasmania) and a carefully plotted "secrets from the past" story.  This one may be a little too much of a slow burn, though - not much happens for much of the book, although the character work is great (particularly the family dynamic affected by both trauma and dementia) - the mystery progresses so slowly that it seems unusually low stakes by the end, even though there's a body count both present and historical.
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After reading Harper's The Dry, I've been a fan and this title did not disappoint and I look forward to her future works.
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I understand that people like what they like, but honestly, I don't understand the lower reviews of this book. This is, without a doubt one of the best literary mysteries I've ever read. Let me tell you why:

Setting:The events unfold in Evelyn Bay, a small coastal town in Tasmania that depends on seasonal tourism for its livelihood. The year round residents are a tight-knit group with a long shared history and many intertwining relationships that endure over time and distance. Jane Harper gave just enough atmospheric detail, sufficient for you to feel you had an idea of the geography of the place--it's most popular eatery, the cottage-lined beach, the tourist attractions and even the topography of the sea caves. But those weren't just to add a 'sense of place' though that's super important. Those locations were all relevant to the mystery, so much so that Evelyn Bay itself became a character. By the time I was done, I felt like I could almost find my way around the place.

Character-Building:the main protagonist, Kieran, is a former resident of Evelyn Bay, now living in Sydney with his girlfriend Mia and their infant daughter, Audrey. Kieran is back in town to help his parents with an important transition, and that return not only coincides with a murder, but stirs up difficult memories and a whole lot more. What was interesting about Kieran wasn't just his incredibly well-developed backstory; he also acts as an unwitting sleuth, navigating the murder at the center of this story as well as his own past just through conversations with people he's known his entire life; often with his baby daughter adorably strapped to his chest. He's an unusual mystery novel protagonist because while he does have his share of inner demons, he's also a happily coupled-up thirty-year-old who rarely goes anywhere without his kid or partner. 

Kieran as protagonist is genius because he is both insider and outsider, with just enough knowledge about the town and its inhabitants to be the perfect tour guide for the reader. Through him, we get everyone else's backstories as he observes the changes that have taken place since he was gone, noting things that are different and those that have stayed the same, giving us insight into the other characters' motives and actions without it coming across as the author doing too much exposition. And the secondary characters ... not a single one was superfluous, and every single one, at some point became a plausible suspect. <i>Almost</i> with the exception of the actual culprit who--as is the case in every good mystery--was both obvious and unexpected.

Plot:Flawlessly-and I do mean flawlessly-executed. Artful, careful and perfectly-timed foreshadowing, many red herrings that had me as a reader feeling clever to have spotted the "clues" only to then realize that I was way off-base. And then at the end, the "of <i>course</i>!" moment when you realize you'd been chasing shadows the entire time, and overlooking the very solid figure standing right in front of you.

Skill:The writing was smooth enough for me to not feel like I was reading. That doesn't often happen for me, particularly when the place and culture are unfamiliar. It's hard to feel solidly located in a place you've never been, with people speaking in an accent and with vernacular that is not your own, but it happened here. It felt like I was <i>experiencing</I> not just reading it all. There was just enough sensory detail to drop me right there in the middle of the action, feeling it all as it was happening. As for the narrative, nothing felt overwrought or overdone, and every single chapter and scene felt as necessary in retrospect as it did when I was in the middle of the novel.

In conclusion, this one is highly recommended, if you like literary fiction AND mystery. This is not gimmicky, breakneck speed mystery suspense; the 'action' occurs mostly in the leisurely reveal of layered relationships among the characters, not in shock-and-awe scenes. Audible note: I listened as well as read this one, and both experiences were exceptional. Great narrator, who-to my untrained ear-sounded like a native Aussie.
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Suspenseful and so atmospheric. I love Jane Harper and found this book to be a great addiction to her writing. Highly recommend!
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I really enjoy Jane Harper's books because of how atmospheric the stories are, especially with them taking place in Australia. While this book delivered on that and included some of the authors magic when creating stories this one was rather slow for me. It was not as fast paced as the other stories she has written. Her characters are sort of my favorite part, because you don't really like any of them but you're interested in finding out what happens to them and find out who was behind everything.
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Jane Harper, who has taken her readers on a crime fiction tour of Australia, takes us to a small coastal town in Tasmania, a place where a ship once sank, taking over fifty people with it. The wreck remains a destination for divers, and a sculpture of three figures that stand above the waves, known as “The Survivors,” is both a memorial and a constant reminder that the sea, which gives the tourist town its livelihood, is both beautiful and cruel. 

Kerian Elliot has returned to Evelyn Bay with his girlfriend and infant daughter to help his mother pack up the house he grew up in. His father’s dementia has gotten so severe she can no longer care for him. Kerian rarely visits and is shocked by how advanced his father’s condition has become. Visits have always been fraught, given the shadow hanging over the family. Kerian’s popular older brother drowned in a ferocious storm a dozen years earlier. Kerian is dogged by guilt about the drowning, and the attitude of townsfolk doesn’t help. They blame him for the death of three young men who set out to sea trying to rescue him from a storm-engulfed sea cave before the storm swamped their boat. Both Kerian and his wife Mia survived the storm, but each lost someone close to them: Kerian’s brother Finn and Mia’s friend Gabby, who disappeared on the beach, but whose body was never found.

The packing isn’t going well – the baby is making sleep elusive and the father’s confused efforts to help just make things harder.  Then the body of a young artist is found on the beach, and the rumors of the past return to swirl around the investigation. 

Harper takes her time developing the story, unfolding the close relationships that knit the town together, relationships that are becoming unraveled as the police struggle to solve the murder with few clues. A popular novelist who knows the town from summer visits has moved in permanently and has launched an investigation of his own. Everyone has a suspect, and Kerian is increasingly feeling the weight of his guilt bearing down. 

The deliberate pacing gives Harper time to develop rich characters and fill in the town’s past, bit by bit. Always interested in the distinctive landscapes of her setting, Harper makes the people who live in the small town part of the landscape, people shaped by the sea and by their relative isolation, which means everyone has ties to each other, ties that are increasingly strained as the investigation drags on without a breakthrough. Though it wouldn’t be accurate to call this novel a thriller, it’s a compelling and deep examination of themes Harper has explored before: the long term scars of the past in small community, the tensions in families who have suffered a loss, and the corrosive effect that blame and guilt have on survivors of tragedy.
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The guilt over his brother's death, due to a reckless mistake that Kieran Elliott made as a teenager, still lingers years later. Judged by his parents and the townspeople as a whole, will Kieran ever come to terms with the decision he made? When a woman's body is discovered on the beach, will the secrets of the past threaten to make themselves known?

Having liked the previous novels by this author, I was surprised as to my reaction to The Survivors. The story itself was underwhelming and the plot twists mainly expected. The main character was likable, but there was nothing really redeeming in his story as a whole. Kieran's struggles were the best part of the book, as it comes to realizations about himself and his life, but the rest of the novel was not as successful in my opinion. For these reasons, I would be hesitant to recommend The Survivors to other readers.

Disclaimer: I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of The Survivors by NetGalley and the publisher, Flatiron Books. The decision to review this novel was entirely my own.
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Jane Harper writes so vividly about the setting on the Australian coast that the setting is more like a character. Every character seems to have something to hide as the story slowly unravels and the layers of each of them are peeled away in this suspenseful, cannot put down, book.
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Harper has a way of making the setting almost a character in the novel. I could picture the angry ocean and the surrounding caves vividly.
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The Survivors is not my favorite of of Jane Harpers, but still a solid, interesting mystery. Jane Harper builds the mystery slowly, and the big reveal comes at the end. I did not feel as attached to these characters (Kiernan and Mia) as I have in the past, and although the Tasmanian beach town seemed interesting I love the Aaron Falk mysteries set in the Australian outback. The Survivors also has an "old mystery" and a new one which are very much related. Twelve years ago Kiernan's brother, business partner, and the sister of a friend are lost in a terrible storm. Kiernan himself is injured and has struggled with his guilt concerning the loss of his brother ever since the event. This is the one part of the novel that bothered me - his relationship with his parents really suffered since that day - due to the blame that his parents heaped upon him.
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The Survivors takes place in a small coastal town in Tasmania. Kieran Elliott has returned home with his girlfriend Mia and infant daughter to help his parents pack up their home.  His father has dementia and he is there to help his mother move his father into a facility. Returning home has painful memories for Kieran due to a tragedy that took place twelve years earlier. Kieran's brother, Finn and his best friend, Toby drowned while trying to save Kieran who was stranded in a cave during a storm. Kieran has always blamed himself for their deaths. Now, the death of a young woman the day after Kieran and his family arrive stir up memories for the town of another young girl who disappeared without trace during that wild storm twelve years before. Other people in the town have secrets to hide and have not allowed Kieran to forget the events of the day his brother and friend drowned. This causes great tension and secrets starts to surface.  The book was a little slow to start for me, but once it got going I really enjoyed the story and I was completely wrong once I got to the ending!  To me that is a good sign when I am wrong about the conclusion. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my review.
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A small coastal town. A murder. Old friends reuniting. Memories of a tragic storm. Dangerous caves. Salt air. A missing child. The atmosphere in The Survivors is thick.
Secrets and guilt drive the narrative in this story of a small coastal town dealing with the aftermath of a murder in the present which has led to memories and new speculations about a missing girl and a big storm that changed the lives of everyone in the town twelve years earlier. The story is slow to build, but like a good storm over open water, it gathers momentum as old grudges, regrets, and secrets are revealed. There is a great sense of tension in the book, which was too often broken by a switch from action in the present to a memory of something that happened in the past, with nothing to denote the shift in time, which altered to pace of the narrative. This isn’t a book you rush through looking for the killer. It is one you wade into, one you let flow over you, one you savor for the images of sea and sky, for the relationships formed, broken, and rekindled, for the immersion in lives shaped by the small town, the sea, and human nature. The ending felt rushed, but overall, this is a book about secrets and guilt, about friendships and family, about fear and mistrust but also forgiveness and hope.
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