On a chilly, rainy day, it's tempting to escape to the baking heat of Australia. A cracking crime novel such as The Dry is just what's needed as an excuse to brew a cup of tea, settle into the sofa and ignore the fact winter has really arrived. Aaron Falk, a federal police investigator with a past, leads us through this page-turner set underneath searing Australian skies.

The Dry is a classic crime novel with a range of characters, from the watchful pub keeper to the concerned school principal and downright hostile neighbours.

Relationships matter in The Dry and, as author Jane Harper links characters, you find yourself caring about these people struggling in a tough town during even tougher times. Tempers run short in the farming community of Kiewarra as patience evaporates. Luke Hadler is as desperate as the next farmer when he takes his rifle out to shoot rabbits but, by the end of the day, he's dead along with his wife and 6-year-old son.

Falk, who fled Kiewarra years ago, returns for his good friend's funeral. He is the obligatory loner, workaholic police investigator, whose tradition stretches back to Sherlock Holmes (although he's more charming and considerably less of a fusspot than Holmes). But Kiewarra quickly lets Falk know he isn't welcome.

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Friendship demands Falk heeds Luke Hadler's parents' request to look into the deaths. Do whispers from the past hint that Luke was the kind of boy who would grow into a murderous monster?

THE DRY
(Macmillan, $38)
By Jane Harper