Twenty years ago, Aaron Falk and his father were driven out of the small town in Australia where they lived. Now, Luke Hadler, Aaron's best friend from his childhood, is dead, along with Hadler's wife and young son. Falk, now a federal agent who investigates financial crimes, is finally pulled back home to attend the funeral after getting a cryptic message from Hadler's father.
The community is in the midst of the worst drought in decades, and everyone is on edge. It would appear that Luke, a farmer, finally snapped and murdered his wife and son with a shotgun before turning the weapon on himself. The case appears cut and dried, but Hadler's parents plead with Falk to at least look at the case. Aaron agrees to stay a couple of extra days, but at a price to himself. It's clear that the local animosity that drove him and his father out of town has not abated to any degree, and he finds himself the victim of a great deal of hostility.
As the story unfolds, we learn a great deal about this small community and about the events years earlier that would ultimately cause so much grief for so many people. Harper skillfully follows the stories past and present, and the tension rises to a great climax. She is particularly good at describing the setting, and one can practically feel the heat and the desperation of a farm community on edge because of the murders and because of the drought that may well seal the community's fate. This is a very good debut novel.