Force of Nature
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
My Rating: 4/5
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 – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.
Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.
Force of Nature is the highly anticipated second book from the author of ‘The Dry’, Jane Harper. Set in the fictional Giralang Ranges, ‘Force of Nature’ follows the story of five women who while on a corporate ‘team building’ retreat veer off course and end up lost. When they finally emerge, battered and bruised, one of them is missing.
Following up after such a successful debut novel isn’t easy, but Harper has done a commendable job. As with ‘The Dry’, Harper brings the setting to life, allowing it to live and breath as much as any one of the characters. Her description of place and setting is lifelike, and at many times throughout the novel you feel as if you are lost in the bush alongside the women.
The novel reintroduces readers with Federal Police Agent, Aaron Faulk, who readers of ‘The Dry’ will be glad to see again. However, I didn’t feel his character developed much throughout this novel. We did get to learn more about his relationship with his Father, and this did play into the main themes of the novel well. But, I think Harper missed a great opportunity to develop Faulk’s character even further with a view of him becoming a popular series protagonist. Of course, this may not be Harper’s vision, but he is such a likable character that I think it could work. I’ll be interested to see if we get more of Faulk in Harper’s next novel. I hope we do.
Harper is great at building tension between characters and the story itself. Her writing is very atmospheric, and her dialogue is used well to move the story along. Dealing with so many characters and different timelines, the writing is seamless and Harper’s pacing is flawless. She keeps you turning the page, wanting to know what happens. However, although it was still a page-turner, I didn’t quite feel it had quite the urgency of The Dry.
Although I didn’t ‘guess’ the ending as such, I did feel it was a little predictable, and lacked a powerful final twists. But I suspect that may only because I had such high expectations following up from The Dry.
Force of Nature is a captivating read, and again proves Harper’s worth in this this genre.