Friday, 9 February 2018

Force Of Nature - Jane Harper

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

When I read The Dry last year I fell in love with Jane Harper's writing, both her description and characters were almost perfect and made for one of my most compelling reads of the year. It went on to become the Waterstones Crime Book of the Month (twice) and in several publications, it won awards and Reese Witherspoon's production company has bought the movie rights. I didn't think it was possible to improve on The Dry but with Force Of Nature? Jane Harper has done just that. I've had a copy of the book since August last year and I've read it twice, and it's on my list of books for top ten of 2018 already.

The affable Aaron Falk makes a welcome return and, along with his colleague Carmen in the Financial Crimes unit, soon becomes embroiled in a missing persons case. The connection to his department? The missing woman was their informant into an investigation into company fraud and the people she went into the Giralang Ranges with happen to be the top bosses of BaileyTennants. It was supposed to be a team building weekend, learning to trust their co-workers, a team of 5 men and a team of 5 women. When the deadline passes and only the men have returned things take a turn for the worse. Eventually the women return, but Alice is not one of them. The question is, has she merely walked away or did someone go into the Bush with murderous intentions?

Jane Harper has created another amazing thriller, with an eclectic mix of characters and once again using the Australian bush as a character in its own right. She keeps you on your toes as to what exactly happened out there, a simple case of a woman wanting to disappear or someone who knows just what she's been doing and can't risk her staying alive once the weekend is over. How far would one of the other women go to keep a secret? Alice Russell is far from a likeable character, even Falk and Carmen don't particularly like her very much, but that's no excuse for violence.

The story flips between the current search for the missing woman and what actually happened during the days the women were in the wilderness. This builds both a picture of the women themselves and how they got on, along with a snapshot of the investigations and their home lives, building the momentum until we finally find out what really transpired while they were alone.

Force of Nature was a masterpiece of misdirection, I was suspicious of everyone from the gas station attendant to the chap running the retreat, the rangers at the local lodge where Falk was staying to Daniel and Jill, Alice's bosses. There was the added menace of a local serial killer who although he was dead, had a son who hadn't been seen for several years, and so of course anybody male came under suspicion too. The discovery of the truth of Alice's disappearance stunned me. Once again I'd gone for every option but the right one, distracted by the red herrings and ignoring the hints that led to the real story.

As I said with The Dry, if you like intelligent, well written, gripping thrillers then you should add both Force of Nature and The Dry to your reading lists. Although this is the second book in the Falk series you could read this as a standalone but really, to fully appreciate Jane Harper's wonderful, descriptive writing you need to read both. Huge thanks to Grace Vincent and LittleBrown for an advance copy of the book and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. I'm off to buy the gorgeous limited edition hardback now as Force of Nature is a keeper and I'm sure I'll be re-reading while I wait for Falk no. 3 (fingers crossed)!!!

1 comment:

  1. Well this sounds really interesting! I'll have to go back and pick up The Dry before I dive into this one because I'd love to more fully appreciate this one over reading it as a standalone. Sounds like a really great thriller--thanks for sharing!


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