FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…
Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.
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 landscape 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 was published in hardback by Little, Brown on the 8th February 2018. Many thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of the book for this review.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, which deservedly won a number of awards both in Australia and here in the UK. However, with the massive success of the debut book, there is always a danger that the second book will not live up to expectations, but I am thrilled to say that it most definitely does! For me, whilst The Dry was fantastic, Force of Nature is amazing!
Force of Nature is the second book in the Aaron Falk series but could be read as a standalone as the investigation (and setting for that matter!) is completely different to the first one. Force of Nature is set within the cold and wet mountain range near Melbourne (as opposed to the drought of the Australian outback) where members of a financial firm take part in a team building exercise. The purpose of the exercise is for the two teams (the men and the women) to hike through the wilderness to find their way back to camp by working together with the limited resources they have at their disposal. This is a challenge as it’s clear from the outset that no one really wants to be there, let alone with the company they have. The team-building doesn’t go according to plan when a member of one of the teams doesn’t emerge, seemingly disappeared into thin air. The men arrive back first and when the women finally appear, they are missing Alice. This is where Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk comes in, to assist with the investigation into her disappearance. Falk and his partner, Carmen Cooper, work within the Financial Investigation Unit and Alice is a key witness in a case that they are working on – corruption and money laundering amongst the colleagues that she is on this hike with!
The Dry is very much a traditional police procedural however Force of Nature mixes this up a bit as the story is told from different narratives; we have the present with the progress of the investigation as well as hearing from Alice’s team and colleagues during the hike. What is very interesting and clever is the fact that we do not hear from Alice, just of her from differing points of view (love an unrealiable narrator!). Harper builds up the tension and atmosphere brilliantly through both the narrative of the hike and the descriptions of the surroundings. Force of Nature is fabulously claustrophobic which is gripping from its stunning prologue – the short chapter style also helped with the pacing and kept me reading “just one more chapter……” – it’s never just one more chapter!
Harper has created an intriguing cast of characters who develop as the story progresses and we hear from them during their hike. There are some interesting themes also explored aside from Alice’s disappearance.
Whilst it is very different to it’s predecessor The Dry, Force of Nature is a fantastic follow up with both books showing different sides to Aaron Falk due to their differing investigations. I truly hope this isn’t the last we hear from Falk as I’d be intrigued to find out what he’s called upon to investigate next. Highly recommended…. but start with The Dry as it’s just amazing and well worth the read!
Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.