Goodreads Choice Award Finalist (Mystery&Thriller, 2018)
BookBrowse Best Books of 2018
Winner of the Prix Polar Award for Best International Novel
BookRiot’s 25 Best Suspense Books from 2018
Davitt Awards shortlist for Adult Crime Novel 2018
Dead Good Reads shortlist for Best Small Town Mystery 2018
Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?
When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.
But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?
“Force of Nature bristles with wit; it crackles with suspense; it radiates atmosphere. An astonishing book from an astonishing writer.”
—A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window
Select praise for The Dry:
"One of the most stunning debuts I've ever read. Every word is near perfect. Read it!"
—David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A breathless page-turner … Ms. Harper has made her own major mark.”
—The New York Times
About the Author
Jane Harper is the author of The Dry. Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript,The Dry is Jane’s first novel, with rights sold to over twenty territories. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.
Read an Excerpt
Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who until that moment had had no plans to do so, closed the book he'd been reading. He swapped his mobile phone to his good hand and sat up straighter in bed.
"Alice Russell is missing." The woman on the other end said the name quietly. "Apparently."
"Missing how?" Falk put his book aside.
"Legitimately. Not just ignoring our calls this time."
Falk heard his partner sigh down the line. Carmen Cooper sounded more stressed than he'd heard her in the three months they'd been working together, and that was saying a lot.
"She's lost in the Giralang Ranges somewhere," Carmen went on.
"Yeah, out in the east?"
"No, I know where it is," he said. "I was thinking more of the reputation."
"The Martin Kovac stuff? It doesn't sound anything like that, thank God."
"You'd hope not. That'd have to be twenty years ago now, wouldn't it?"
"Going on for twenty-five, I think."
Some things would always linger, though. Falk had been barely a teenager when the Giralang Ranges had dominated the evening news for the first time. Then three more times over the next two years. Each time, images of search teams tramping through overgrown bushland with sniffer dogs straining at their leads had been projected into living rooms around the state. They'd found most of the bodies, eventually.
"What was she doing all the way out there?" he asked.
"Are you joking?"
"Unfortunately not," Carmen said. "Turn on the TV; it's on the news. They've called out a search crew."
"Hang on." Falk climbed out of bed and pulled on a T-shirt above his boxers. The night air was chilly. He padded through to his living room and turned to a twenty-four-hour news channel. The anchor was talking about the day in parliament.
"It's nothing. Just work. Go back to sleep," Falk heard Carmen murmur in his ear, and realized she was talking to someone at the other end. He'd automatically pictured her in their shared office, squeezed behind the desk that had been shoehorned in next to his twelve weeks earlier. They'd been working closely since, quite literally. When Carmen stretched, her feet knocked his chair legs. Falk checked the clock. It was after 10:00 P.M. on a Sunday night; of course she would be at home.
"See it yet?" Carmen said to him, whispering now for the benefit of whoever she was with. Her fiancé, Falk assumed.
"Not yet." Falk didn't need to lower his own voice. "Wait —" The ticker tape scrolled across the screen. "Here it is."
SEARCH TO RESUME AT DAWN IN GIRALANG RANGES FOR LOST MELBOURNE HIKER ALICE RUSSELL, 45.
"Melbourne hiker?" Falk asked.
"Since when has Alice —" He stopped. He was picturing Alice's shoes. High. Pointy.
"I know. The bulletin said it was some sort of team-building exercise. She was part of a group sent out for a few days and —"
"A few days? How long has she actually been missing?"
"I'm not sure. I think since last night."
"She called me," Falk said.
There was a silence at the other end of the line. "Who did? Alice?"
"Last night." Falk pulled his cell phone away and scrolled through his missed calls. He put it back to his ear. "You still there? Early this morning, actually, around four thirty. I didn't hear it. Only saw the voice mail when I woke up."
Another silence. "What did she say?"
"There was no one there. I thought it was a pocket dial."
The TV bulletin put up a recent picture of Alice Russell. It looked like it had been taken at a party. Her blond hair had been pinned in a complicated style, and she was wearing a silvery dress that showed off the hours she spent in the gym. She looked a good five years younger than her true age, maybe more. And she was smiling at the camera in a way she never had for Falk and Carmen.
"I tried to call her back when I woke up; probably around six thirty," Falk said, still watching the screen. "It rang out."
The TV cut to an aerial shot of the Giralang Ranges. Hills and valleys rolled out to the horizon, a rippling green ocean under the weak winter light.
SEARCH TO RESUME AT DAWN ...
Carmen was quiet. Falk could hear her breathing. On screen, the ranges looked big. Enormous, in fact. The thick carpet of treetops appeared completely impenetrable from the camera's vantage point.
"Let me listen to the message again," he said. "I'll call you back."
"Okay." The line went dead.
Falk sat on his couch in the semi-dark, the blue light of the TV screen flickering. He hadn't drawn his curtains, and beyond the small balcony he could see the glow of the Melbourne skyline. The warning light on top of the Eureka Tower flashed, regular and red.
SEARCH TO RESUME AT DAWN IN GIRALANG ...
He turned down the TV and dialed his voice mail. Call received at 4:26 A.M. from Alice Russell's cell phone.
At first Falk could hear nothing, and he pressed his phone harder against his ear. Muffled static for five seconds. Ten. He kept listening, right to the end this time. The white noise lurched in waves; it sounded like being underwater. There was a muted hum that might have been someone talking. Then, out of nowhere, a voice broke through. Falk jerked the phone away from his ear and stared at it. The voice had been so faint he wondered if he'd imagined it.
Slowly, he tapped the screen. He closed his eyes in his quiet flat and played the message one more time. Nothing, nothing, and then, in the darkness, a faraway voice spoke two words in his ear.
"— hurt her ..."
Dawn hadn't yet broken when Carmen pulled up outside Falk's flat. He was already waiting on the pavement, his backpack on the ground. His hiking boots felt stiff from lack of use.
"Let's hear the message," she said as he climbed in. She had the driver's seat pushed back. Carmen was one of the few women Falk had met who was tall enough to look him in the eye when they stood face-to-face.
Falk put his phone on speaker and pressed a button. Static filled the car. Five, ten seconds of nothing, then the two words emerged, tinny and thin. A few more muffled seconds, and the call cut out.
Carmen frowned. "Once more."
She closed her eyes, and Falk watched her face as she listened. At thirty-eight, Carmen outranked him by only six months both in age and experience, but it was the first time their paths in the Federal Police had crossed. She was new to the financial investigation unit in Melbourne, having moved down from Sydney. Falk couldn't work out if she regretted it. Carmen opened her eyes. Under the orange glow of the streetlight, her skin and hair both looked a shade darker than usual.
"'Hurt her,'" she said.
"That's what it sounds like to me."
"Could you hear something else right at the end?"
Falk turned up the volume to the maximum and hit Replay. He found himself holding his breath as he strained to hear.
"There," Carmen said. "Is that someone saying Alice?"
They listened once more, and this time Falk caught the faint inflection in the muffled noise, a sibilant hiss.
"I don't know," he said. "It might be static."
Carmen started the engine. It roared loudly in the predawn. She pulled away and onto the road before she spoke again.
"How confident do you feel that that's Alice's voice?"
Falk tried to recall the timbre of Alice Russell's tone. Her voice was fairly distinctive. It was often clipped. Always decisive. "There's nothing to say that it's not her. But it's hard to hear."
"Very hard. I'm not sure I could even swear that was a woman."
In the side mirror, the Melbourne skyline was growing smaller. Ahead, in the east, the sky was turning from black to navy.
"I know Alice is a pain in the arse," he said. "But I really hope we haven't landed her in the shit."
"Me too." Carmen's engagement ring caught the light as she turned the wheel to join the highway. "What did the state cop have to say? What was his name?"
Falk had hung up from Alice Russell's voice mail the previous night and immediately dialed the state police. It had been half an hour before the senior sergeant leading the search had called back.
"Sorry." Senior Sergeant King had sounded tired. "Had to get myself to a landline. The weather's stuffing up the reception worse than usual. Tell me about this voice mail."
He'd listened patiently while Falk spoke.
"Right," King said when he'd finished. "Look, we've run a check on her phone records."
"What did you say your relationship was with her?"
"Professional," Falk said. "Confidential. She was helping me and my partner with something."
"And what's his name?"
"Her. Carmen Cooper."
Falk could hear the rustle of paper as the man wrote it down.
"Were either of you expecting her to call?"
Falk hesitated. "Not specifically."
"Are you particularly skilled at bushcraft?"
Falk had looked down at his left hand. The skin was still pink and strangely smooth in patches where the burns hadn't healed quite as well. "No."
"Is your partner?"
"I don't think so." Falk realized he didn't really know.
There was a pause. "According to the phone company, early this morning Alice Russell attempted to get through to two numbers," King said. "Triple zero emergency line and you. Can you think of a reason why that would be?"
It was Falk's turn to pause. He could hear the sergeant breathing down the phone.
"I think we'd better come up there," Falk said. "Speak in person."
"I think that'd be a wise move, mate. Bring your phone."
DAY 4: SUNDAY MORNING
The woman could see her own fear reflected in the three faces staring back at her. Her heartbeat thumped, and she could hear the others' rapid breathing. Overhead, the pocket of sky carved out by the trees was a dull gray. The wind shook the branches, sending a shower of water down on the group below. No one flinched. Behind them, the rotten wood of the cabin groaned and settled.
"We have to get out of here. Now," the woman said.
The pair on her left nodded immediately, united for once by their panic, their eyes wide and dark. On her right, the briefest hesitation, then a third nod.
"What about —"
"What about what?"
"What about Alice?"
An awful hush. The only sound was the creak and rustle as the trees watched down over their tight circle of four.
"Alice brought this on herself."
When Falk and Carmen stopped after a couple of hours, the sky was fully light and the city lay far behind them. They stood by the side of the road and stretched as the clouds threw shifting shadows across the paddocks. The houses and buildings were few and far between. A truck carrying farming supplies roared past, the first vehicle they had seen for thirty kilometers. The noise startled a flock of galahs, sending them scattering from a nearby tree, flapping and screaming.
"Let's keep moving," Falk said. He took the keys from Carmen and climbed behind the wheel of her battered maroon sedan. He started the engine. It felt instantly familiar.
"I used to have a car like this."
"But you had the sense to get rid of it?" Carmen settled into the passenger's seat.
"Not by choice. It got damaged earlier this year, back in my hometown. A welcome-home gesture from a couple of the locals."
She glanced over, a tiny smile. "Oh, yeah. I heard about that. Damaged is one way to put it, I suppose."
Falk ran his hand over the steering wheel with a pang of regret. His new car was okay, but it wasn't the same.
"This is Jamie's car, anyway," Carmen said as he pulled away. "Better for longer distances than mine."
"Right. How is Jamie?"
"Fine. Same as usual."
Falk didn't really know what the usual was. He had met Carmen's fiancé only once. A muscular guy in jeans and a T-shirt, Jamie worked in marketing for a sports nutrition drink company. He'd shaken Falk's hand and given him a bottle of something blue and fizzy that promised to enhance his performance. The man's smile seemed genuine, but there was a touch of something else in it as he took in Falk's tall thin frame, his pale skin, his white-blond hair, and his burned hand. If Falk had had to guess, he'd have said it was mild relief.
Falk's cell phone beeped from the center console. He took his eyes off the empty road to glance at the screen and handed it to Carmen. "That sergeant's sent an email through."
Carmen opened the message. "All right, he says there were two groups on the retreat. One men's group, one women's, both doing separate routes. He's sent the names of the women in Alice Russell's party."
"Both groups from BaileyTennants?"
"Looks like it." Carmen took out her own phone and opened the BaileyTennants website. Falk could see the boutique accountancy firm's black-and-silver lettering on the screen out of the corner of his eye.
"Okay. Breanna McKenzie and Bethany McKenzie," she read out loud from his phone. "Breanna is Alice's assistant, isn't she?" Carmen tapped her screen. "Yep, here she is. God, she looks like she could advertise vitamins."
She held out her phone, and Falk glanced at the beaming staff headshot of a girl in her midtwenties. He could see what Carmen meant. Even in unflattering office light, Breanna McKenzie had the healthy glow of someone who jogged each morning, practiced yoga with intent, and deep-conditioned her glossy black ponytail religiously every Sunday.
Carmen took her phone back and tapped. "Nothing's coming up about the other one. Bethany. Sisters, do you think?"
"Possibly." Perhaps twins, even, Falk thought. Breanna and Bethany. Bree 'n' Beth. He rolled the sounds over his tongue. They sounded like a pair.
"We can find out what the deal is with her," Carmen said. "Next is Lauren Shaw."
"We've come across her, haven't we?" Falk asked. "Middle management something?"
"Yeah, she's — Christ, that's right, strategic head of forward planning." Carmen held out her phone again. "Whatever that means."
Whatever it was, Lauren's thin face gave nothing away. It was hard to estimate her age, but Falk guessed mid- to late forties. Her hair was a medium shade of brown, and her light-gray eyes gazed straight into the camera, expression as neutral as a passport photo.
Carmen turned back to the list of names. "Huh."
"It says Jill Bailey was out there with them."
"Really?" Falk kept his eyes on the road, but the bead of worry that had been lodged in his chest since the previous night pulsed and grew.
Carmen didn't bother pulling up Jill's photo. They were both familiar with the chairwoman's heavyset features. She was turning fifty that year and, despite her expensive clothes and haircuts, looked every day of it.
"Jill Bailey," Carmen said, scrolling further through the sergeant's message. Her thumb stilled. "Shit. And her brother was in the men's group."
"Are you sure?"
"Yep, Daniel Bailey, chief executive. It's here in black and white."
"I don't like that at all," he said.
"No. I don't like any of it."
Carmen clicked her fingernails lightly on the phone as she thought. "All right. We don't know enough to form any conclusions," she said eventually. "That voice mail is completely without context. In every sense — realistically, statistically — it's most likely that Alice Russell has come off a trail by mistake and got lost."
"Yeah, that is most likely," Falk said. He thought neither of them sounded convinced.
They drove on, the radio stations dwindling to nothing as the scenery whipped by. Carmen fiddled with the knob until she found a crackly AM wavelength. The news on the hour faded in and out. The Melbourne hiker was still missing. The road gently swung to the north, and suddenly Falk could see the hills of the Giralang Ranges on the horizon.
"Have you ever been out here?" he said, and Carmen shook her head.
"No." He hadn't, but he had grown up in a place not unlike it. Isolated terrain, where trees grew thick and dense on land that was reluctant to let anything escape.
"The history around here puts me off," Carmen went on. "I know it's silly, but ..." She shrugged.
"Whatever happened to Martin Kovac in the end?" Falk asked. "Is he still locked up?"
"I'm not sure." Carmen tapped at her phone screen again. "No. He's dead. Died in jail three years ago, aged sixty-two. Actually, that rings a bell, now I think about it. He got into a fight with an inmate, hit his head on the ground, and didn't wake up again, it says here. It's hard to feel too sorry about that."
Falk agreed. The first body had been that of a twenty something-year-old trainee teacher from Melbourne, enjoying a weekend of fresh air in the ranges. A group of campers had found her, days too late. The zipper on her shorts had been wrenched apart, and her pack with hiking supplies was missing. She was barefoot, and her shoelaces were tight around her neck.
Excerpted from "Force of Nature"
Copyright © 2017 Jane Harper.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I hoped this would live up to the excellence of The Dry and was not disappointed. While its plot sweltered in the drought, this one weighs us down with the cold, wet misery of a group of women lost in the wilderness. It has a few holes like the exact nature of the corporate crime Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his partner are investigating with the help of the now missing hiker...and don't Australian search and rescue teams use dogs?! I know it was raining a good deal of the search, but not always. Still, those questions don't stop me from awarding it with 5 stars as Harper's excellent writing and complex characterization elevate it.
“It wasn’t any one thing that went wrong, it was a hundred little things. It all kept adding up until it was just too late.” Force of Nature is the second book in the Aaron Falk series by award-winning Australian journalist and author, Jane Harper. A late-night call has AFP agent Aaron Falk and his Financial Intelligence Unit partner Carmen Cooper heading for the Giralang Ranges. A corporate team-building weekend has gone wrong and one of the participants, Alice Russell, is missing. Alice is the whistle-blower in their current case, so Falk and Cooper are concerned that her actions have been exposed to their target, resulting in some sort of retaliatory action. But when they arrive, the local Police Sergeant shares his own concerns: that Alice may be a victim of Sam Kovac, the son of notorious serial killer, Martin Kovac, whose killing field was in the Giralang Ranges. And as they question the remaining members of the party, they become aware of just how unpopular Alice was with her colleagues. Could she have come to harm at their hands? Or has the pressure simply become too much, prompting her to disappear off the scene? Has it anything to do with certain photos and clips spreading on social media? Falk’s second outing is easily as fine as his first. The narrative alternates between Falk’s observations as he investigates, and the account of events during the weekend from the perspective of each of the four remaining participants. It soon becomes apparent that none of those questioned is completely candid about what happened, or what they know. The storyline is highly credible, with several twists and red herrings keeping the reader guessing right up to the exciting climax. Harper effortlessly evokes the Australian winter mountain landscape, and her characters are typical of those one might encounter in an office environment. Falk’s inner monologue and his dialogue with Cooper give the reader insight into his career choice and personal history, and reinforce his integrity. This is another excellent example of Aussie Crime Fiction and, whether or not it features Aaron Falk, more from Jane Harper will be eagerly anticipated.
Forces of Nature is a great follow up to The Dry. Love the storyline and the characters.
Harper's first novel, The Dry, is definitely upstaged by the second installment of the series. Force of Nature paints a subtle and yet disturbing story of a company retreat gone wrong. The double helix structure that flips back and forth from the doomed camping expedition to the ongoing investigation is well done and constantly holds the attention of the reader.
Distinct characters, each with own agenda. Not predictable. ThE reader can relate to many people and incidents within the story but each reader in his or her own way.
A corporate retreat goes wrong, leaving a missing woman behind. In theory this should have been a real page-turner but in reality it was a story that I really just wanted to give up on. However, because it’s gotten plenty of good reviews from bloggers I respect, I pushed myself to finish it. Me, pushing to get through it didn’t pay off. A group of catty women head into the wilderness on a corporate retreat. None of them are properly equipped for the elements and when they get lost, they cannot for the life of them pull together as a team and figure a way out. Plus, they aren’t being honest with one another so when one of them goes missing, a woman no one likes, no one really cares about her disappearance. In my opinion, having this unlikable character be the missing woman was a big mistake because I didn’t care if she was found or not. The added background story of what was going on with the woman at the time of her disappearance really didn’t add anything to the story so I’m not even sure why it was included. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this one.
Force of Nature is a suspenseful mystery book. It will keep you guessing until the end who did it. The multiple POV gave the unique experience of seeing the events unfold from the past along with seeing things unfold in present time. It meshes together so well. Every character is unique. Also, even though this is the second book in a series it can be read as a standalone. I was never confused by any parts of this book. I can’t wait to read more of the series.
One of my very favorite things is finding a new author. One of my second favorite things is finding a character that I love, and then finding out that there are multiple books featuring that character. Aaron Falk is one of those characters for me. I read The Dry last month, and completely fell in love with Jane Harper as an author. I had been recommended this book extensively from fellow bookworms, and everyone was completely right – this book was the exact recipe of what I love in a story, complete with a lead character who was the perfect mix of flawed human and respectable hero. Imagine my considerable glee when I found out immediately after finishing that book, that there was ALREADY A SECOND BOOK FEATURING FEDERAL AGENT FALK! Which I immediately added to my collection, and which I immediately bumped to the top of my reading stack. I was not disappointed – Force of Nature is, I daresay, even better than The Dry. Synopsis: Five colleagues are sent on a corporate retreat into the forest wilderness. One of the women does not return – and the stories on why from the four remaining women don’t add up. Aaron Falk has a particular interest in the missing woman – who was working as a secret source on his current case – and finds himself trying to untangle where everything went wrong. This book was perfectly paced – moving back and forth between the present-day investigation and what happened on the trip over the previous 4 days, the tension and suspense kept increasing with each page. I inhaled this book, largely because with each new chapter I was more and more reluctant to put it down without figuring out exactly what did happen to Alice. Jane Harper is remarkable at swiftly moving a plot forward without losing track of the small, complex details that make the story. Without question, my favorite part of Jane’s stories is how she creates the environment of the story so vividly that it becomes like a character itself. I find myself so easily transported into imagining the terrain, the weather, the damp, the feeling of being watched, the tension of being lost. When I can lose myself so entirely into a story, it is the mark of a perfectly crafted piece of work. Most importantly – I loved how Jane moved Aaron’s story forward. I loved the small details that tied Aaron back to the events in The Dry, without revisiting that story in detail. I like to see a character stay consistent, while still having the ability to grow and expand. Jane nails it on both fronts – and left me wanting to see what happens next for Aaron. I have my fingers anxiously crossed for book #3 in the Aaron Falk series. Overall, this is a strong 5 star read for me. For my fellow bookworms who love a good crime mystery with a healthy dose of character drama – Jane Harper is the author for you.
I really loved Jane’s first novel, The Dry so I was hoping this second novel was going to be just as fantastic as the first. The funny thing was, I kept having to remind myself as I read, that these were grown women that I was reading about and not teenagers. I just couldn’t believe grown women would behave this way. It was like a free-for-all as they verbally and mentally stabbed each other on a corporate retreat. I also had a hard understanding how not one of these women knew how to read a map and no one thought this might be important to know before they went on this adventure together. The novel begins as a group of tired men walk out of the brush, having just finished a corporate retreat out in the wilderness. They have made it! The men now have to wait for a group of corporate women who had their own separate retreat to return to this pickup site so they can return home. Panic sets in as the women make it back for Alice was not among those who have returned. How could she had gotten lost when she left before the other women did? We travel back in time to hear how the women’s retreat went as Federal Agent Falk reappears and it was nice to have Falk back after having him in The Dry. Falk is tied to this investigation and it’s not just because he is working the case. Falk knew Alice before this investigation started so as they begin to unravel the case, Falk’s prior interest in Alice comes into play. It seems that the instant these women are left alone on this retreat, the claws came out. Who in their right mind thought putting these women together would be a good decision? They all seemed liked pests as they go at one another, either behind their backs or right to their faces. It didn’t just start on this retreat, oh no, this has been building and the gloves are coming off! The author decided that we need more drama as the women come upon an evil cabin. I loved the idea of this cabin, the aroma and the filth was sufficient for me but this cabin had a greater story, a story I didn’t feel was necessary for this novel. I was glad to see Agent Falk back in this novel and I enjoyed Jane’s writing. I wasn’t too thrilled with all the women’s battering that was taking place during this novel. I did enjoy the side stories that surfaced and how they all tied in to one another. I look forward to more stories by Jane.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper is a highly recommended thriller set in the Giralang mountain range north of Melbourne, Australia. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, from Harper's debut novel The Dry, is back. Five women from the BaileyTennants accountancy firm set out on the trek in the Giralang range while on a corporate wilderness retreat, but only four return. From the start, before the team building exercise went awry, it was clear that the participants were all reluctantly participating. After all, it is one thing to work with your colleagues and another to go hiking in the cold and rain through the wilderness with them. When the women are late for the pickup time, and then finally make it out of the wilderness minus one member and different stories, it is clear that something happened. Federal agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper become involved when the missing woman, Alice Russell, turns out to be their informant in their investigation of the accounting firm and an on-going money-laundering scheme. It is unclear if her disappearance has anything to do with their case, because Alice seems to be universally disliked for any one of a number of reasons. Adding to the mystery is the legacy left by a serial killer who murdered young women in the same area twenty years ago. He is dead, but is there a copy-cat? I appreciate the well-developed characters and setting. The novel expertly portrays the distrust between the five women and reasons for it, including Alice's cruelty and bossy behavior in the present and the past. The women and their backgrounds are slowly revealed, along with current circumstances that influence their relationships with each other. The weather and location both add additional dimensions to the story - wet, gloomy, cold, and dark, oppressive, somewhat sinister. There is also more insight into Falk's character for those who read The Dry, although Force of Nature can be read as a stand-alone novel. The narrative helps propel the plot forward as it alternates between Alice and the other women, revealing their secrets and past relationships, and Falk's thoughts and investigation. Harper's writing is just as brilliant this time and Force of Nature can also be described as engaging, extremely well-written, and finely paced novel. It's not quite as perfect as The Dry, but, then, Harper set her own bar so high with her first novel. Certainly Force of Nature is worth reading and held my rapt attention to the perfect ending. 4.5 Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Flatiron Books.
BaileyTennants Accounting Firm had organised a corporate team building exercise in the Giralange Ranges, Australia, a dense woodland, with streams, waterfalls etc that stretches on for miles and miles. The Ranges were also once home to the notorious serial killer, Martin Kovac. The firm had selected two separate groups for the exercise, a male and a female group, made up of four chosen employees and one company executive each. The challenge was to spend three nights in the Ranges, where the groups would have to navigate themselves from one side to the other with just a map and a compass. Camp sites had been arranged for each night with food and water left for the groups. They set off on Thursday afternoon, after handing in their mobile phones, and were to be out the other side by 12pm on Sunday. When Sunday arrived the male group were out by 12, but the female group were nowhere to be seen. With panic setting in, relief was short lived when at 6pm the women emerged, albeit injured, but only four had returned, where was Alice Russell? Force of Nature is a mild thriller, but one that kept me guessing the whole way through and I had come up with numerous reasons for Alice’s disappearance. It had me hooked right from the start and I enjoyed every minute of it. The book is split into two separate points of view, Federal Agent Aaron falks and his partner Carmen Cooper, and the women, with their POV time stamped too. Agent Falks had been investigating BaileyTennants for suspected money laundering and Alice had been his inside informant, so he had a vested interest in the case, especially when he also received a call from Alice the night before, in which he thinks he can hear the words ‘Hurt Her’. As I was reading I kept on thinking, I know the name Aaron Falks, but couldn’t place him, then it suddenly came to me. He was the Federal Agent involved in Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry. I can’t believe I got part way through the book before I realised they were connected. The plot and the characters were both very realistic and I could perfectly visualise not only the people involved, but also the scenery which was so vivid. It felt at times that I was walking with the group, with the soggy wet ground making my feet cold, overgrown bushes and tree that whipped you as you past them. Branches snapping, making you nervous as to whether someone was watching, following you. Oh, and that rain that never seemed to stop. Whilst I enjoyed the book from beginning to end and, I didn’t guess what had actually happened to Alice, which is something unusual in thrillers, because I’ve normally worked out what happened by the time it is revealed, I also felt a little let down too. I reached the end with unanswered questions and started to wonder whether I had missed the answers, but realised that there were so many of them, I couldn’t of missed them all. Seen as this book is the second in a series I did wonder whether the answers would be revealed in the next book, but then except for Agent Falks, the first two books aren’t connected, so I doubt this is the case, but you never know. It truly is a wonderful book. The storyline naturally and easily flowed as Ms. Harper’s writing is superb. I fully invested my time and enjoyed every minute of it. I was actually sorry to reach the end as I was that involved in the plot. I now can’t wait for the next in the series – Please tell me there is going to be a next?
Force Of Nature is just that. A force to be reckoned with. Jane Harper is a terrific, talented, and gifted storyteller. I did not want this great story to end. I was completely absorbed and overtaken by the misadventures and troubles produced by a simple hike in the outback and its ramifications for all involved. I could not wait to turn the page. When it ended, all I could think of was when Ms. Harper was going to write another outstanding novel. Force Of Nature is the second installment in the Aaron Falk series. He is a Financial Crimes federal police officer in Australia. I enjoyed the slight but nuanced cultural differences between the United States and Australia. This added color, character and texture to what is already a great series not to be missed.