Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Flatiron Books: 2/6/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
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
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.
My review copy was courtesy of Flatiron Books.