All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

on March 28, 2018

Force Of Nature (Aaron Falk #2)
Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan AUS
2017, 377p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

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?

It’s taken me longer than I would’ve liked to read this book, the 2nd in the Aaron Falk series and the follow up to The Dry which was a breakout title. I absolutely loved The Dry and was super keen for this next instalment.

Force Of Nature opens with a scene pretty much out of my worst nightmares – a company “team bonding” exercise that involves hiking through the bush to specified points where supplies are waiting. The only problem is that although five women go in, four stagger out very late and not where they’re supposed to be. Alice Russell is missing, something that’s complicated by the fact that she’s Aaron Falk’s inside contact in his investigation into her employers. I hate camping and I hate team bonding exercises even more. The group is an eclectic mix – it’s a family owned company and the five are a mix of upper management, middle management, a personal assistant and someone from the archives room. Two of the participants are also estranged twin sisters with a complicated family dynamic. And to be honest, most of them are bitchy, which is probably part of the experiment. I don’t imagine that this environment brings out the best in everyone. Alice in particular is eager to get home, wanting to skip out on the exercise entirely but is refused permission by her boss, also a participant.

Alice’s disappearance is the beginning of the book when only 4 of the women are discovered after they fail to check in at the designated time and place at the completion of their team building exercise. The story then goes back in time to address how they came to be off course and also, what happened to Alice and why she wasn’t with them. Aaron Falk and his partner have a vested interest in finding Alice safe and well not just because the area of bushland is notorious for the past actions of a serial killer, but also because she was going to deliver them the information they desperately need for their investigation. The fact that Alice has gone missing could be just more than simply her wandering off from the rest of the group, becoming deeply lost or hurt. It could be a deliberate act in order to silence her, if she’s been discovered as working with the Federal police.

This is a complexly woven story with a bunch of interesting although not likeable characters. The women descend alarmingly quickly into squabbling about where to stop, what to do, who should put up tents, what is the correct direction to be going in, who should even be map reading, it’s basically never ending. As well as the twins being obviously connected away from work, Alice and another of the participants, Lauren, have known each other for years. They went to the same school and now their teenage daughters also attend that school. And Alice is such a difficult, abrasive woman that to be honest, at one stage I could’ve seen any and all cheerfully murdering her. Most of the time I wanted to murder her and I wasn’t even there. The area, although a popular hiking spot, can be dense and the weather takes an abruptly nasty turn at some stage during the hike. Also, years ago an Ivan Milat-type used the area as a base with the belief that probably there are victims out there that were never found. At times there’s a very sinister vibe threading its way throughout the whole story. The bush is a living, breathing character all on its own and the various noises and movements spook not only the team builders but also the reader. Is someone watching them? Stalking them? And if so, is it an opportunist or someone deliberately seeking Alice?

I really enjoyed the way the book flashed back and forth between the search for Alice and the scenes from the team building hike. With every new switch in time and perspective, I’d have a new idea about what could’ve possibly happened to her. There are plenty of twists and additional plots, such as what is happening with Lauren and Alice’s daughters at their expensive private school and the backstory between Bree and Beth, the twins. Also there’s Jill, one of the company directors who inherited it with her brother from their family. We get her inner thoughts on the family business and the way in which they ended up in a situation that has led to some ‘interest’ from Fraud Squad detective Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen. I liked the inclusion of Carmen as well and how through her, we got to know more about Aaron personally, including much more about his troubled relationship with his father.

Force Of Nature is a very decent follow up to The Dry. It had a strong mystery component, intriguing characters and a situation that was a melting pot of personalities where something was ripe to go wrong. There were a few twists and turns and intrigues along the way and I enjoyed every moment of it. Can’t wait to see what is next for Aaron Falk.


Book #56 of 2018



4 responses to “Review: Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

  1. Definitely nothing wrong with an 8/10.

  2. Marg says:

    I’m hoping that this comes out in audio format soon. I listened to The Dry and enjoyed it.

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