As in Jane Harper’s other stories, violent events are linked to the elements, in this case water, but also to elemental faults in characters. Evelyn Bay is small, tight knit community in an idyllic ocean setting, but it is scarred by dark secrets and a tragedy that happened twelve years before.
Set in Tasmania, the main character, Kieran returns to Evelyn Bay after twelve years’ absence following a traumatic incident, gradually revealed, where we learn his brother and his friend’s father were killed. Kieran is a figure who divides people. Some feel sorry for him because of the loss of his brother; others blame him, like Liam, his best friend’s younger brother, for reckless behaviour which endangered the lives of others.
As the story unfolds there’s a powerful sense of past events reverberating through to the present with secrets revealed. The diner, The Surf and Turf, close to the ocean, is a key setting and, within a few chapters, one of its waitresses is found dead on the beach.
The link between the past and the present, focusing intensely on a natural setting where there is a sparse population is Harper’s hallmark. Strangers pass through, and they may be blamed for crimes. But, the fault lies much closer to home.
The span of action is telescoped into a short period of actual time, but memory of events places it back also to twelve years before. ‘The Survivors’ works brilliantly as a title, referring symbolically to three sets of events and characters. The main character, Kieran, is shown in the present. He carries trauma and partial memories from when he survived the storm where his brother and best friend’s father were killed, feeling guilt that they died trying to rescue him. And he is not the only one, in this close-knit community, to suffer as a survivor. Then there are the inanimate survivors of the historic shipwreck of the Minerva, memorial statues placed in the sea. And all these events are linked. The writing is taut and brilliant, with wonderful evocative names, such as the boat, Nautilus Blue and the fictional small coastal community called Evelyn Bay.
The Survivors by international, multi-award-winning author, Jane Harper, is published by Little, Brown. It is her fourth novel.