The Dry


Jane Harper

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The Dry Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jane Harper's The Dry. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jane Harper

Jane Harper was born in 1980 in Manchester, England. At age eight, she and her family moved to Australia, and she eventually became an Australian citizen. She returned to the UK to study at the University of Kent and start her career as a journalist before returning to Australia. After working as a journalist for several more years, she submitted a short story to the fiction edition of a major Australian magazine and was chosen as a winner. Soon after publishing that story, she published her first novel, The Dry, which launched her career as a mystery writer. So far, Harper has published four more novels, two of which feature Falk, the protagonist of The Dry. A film adaptation of The Dry premiered in 2020. Harper currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children.
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Historical Context of The Dry

The main town in The Dry, Kiewarra, is fictional, but it bears strong similarities to real-life communities in the Victoria region of Australia, where author Harper often traveled as a business journalist to report on the region’s difficult environmental and economic conditions. In The Dry, Kiewarra’s unusually long drought is the result of El Niño, an irregular weather pattern that happens every few years and affects global weather with higher temperatures in the Pacific. Most scientists agree that while El Niño has existed since long before human-caused climate change, human impact on the environment has the potential to change the intensity and frequency of El Niño—and that perhaps it already has. The extreme weather of El Niño affects the quality of life for communities around the world, with drought being particularly common in Australia and Indonesia. Another important historical event for the novel is the creation of the ute (utility vehicle). Developed in the 1930s by Ford Australia specifically to appeal to farmers who needed to transport things to market, the ute is a vehicle that is more or less unique to Australia and New Zealand, although it bears a strong similarity to pickup trucks from other parts of the world. Traditionally, a ute looked more like a car, resembling a coupé with a cargo bed, but today the term also sometimes refers to vehicles that resemble a standard pickup truck.

Other Books Related to The Dry

The Dry launched a mystery series and has two sequels that feature Aaron Falk as the main investigator: Force of Nature and Exiles. Harper’s work sometimes draws comparison to mystery writer Tana French (The Trespasser, The Witch Elm), whose novels also have a strong regional identity (Ireland, in French’s case) and explore economic issues as well as connections between past and present. The founder of the production company for the film adaptation of The Dry, Bruna Papandrea, first found success with a film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, another recent bestselling and critically acclaimed mystery novel. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens debuted a couple years after The Dry and is also a mystery novel with a lightly fictionalized rural setting.
Key Facts about The Dry
  • Full Title: The Dry
  • When Written: 2014
  • Where Written: Melbourne, Australia
  • When Published: 2016
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Mystery Novel
  • Setting: Kiewarra, a fictional rural community in Victoria, Australia
  • Climax: The investigators Falk and Sergeant Raco confront the killer, Whitlam.
  • Antagonist: Whitlam
  • Point of View: Third Person Omniscient

Extra Credit for The Dry

Shotgun Wedding. The day that Harper and her agent sold The Dry to a publisher at an auction was the same day that Harper herself got married.

Private Detective. Harper didn’t tell friends about her manuscript for The Dry until she completed a draft of the book in 2014.