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Jane Harper’s ‘The Lost Man’ an engrossing novel of family and the outback

Jane Harper's “The Lost Man” is filled with believable characters. Equally important is the exploration of the outback.

Jane Harper's “The Lost Man” is filled with believable characters. Equally important is the exploration of the outback. | Provided photo

Three brothers, bonded by blood, history and the vagaries of the Australian outback, are the true lost men of “The Lost Man” (Flatiron Books, $27.99), Jane Harper’s engrossing third novel.

It works as a story about families and as a tale about surviving in a “land of extremes where people were either completely fine or they were not.”

Oldest brother Nathan Bright is banished from the town of Balamara for breaking one of “rules written in blood” and is semi-estranged from his family. He spends his solitary life tending a dying ranch, waiting for infrequent visits from his teenage son Xander.

He and youngest brother Bub are brought together when the body of middle brother Cam is found near the grave of an old stockman, an icon wrapped up in legend.

Cam’s well-stocked vehicle, filled with food and water, is found miles from his body. How a man so well-seasoned in the ways of Australia ended up dead forms the crux of “The Lost Man.”

Cam’s death prompts Nathan to re-examine his life. Cam seemed to have it all — an intelligent wife, two daughters, a prosperous farm. He was well liked in ways that Nathan and, to an extent, Bub never could be. But Cam had a dark side few knew about, evidenced by secrets that begin to spill out.

“The Lost Man” is filled with believable characters. Equally important is the exploration of the outback. This is storytelling at its finest.