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.
Review by Sarah McDuling
It can be really difficult for a successful debut author to match the achievement of their first novel. And Jane Harper is pretty much the most successful debut author of 2016. With her hugely popular, bestselling and award winning first novel, The Dry, she set herself a very high benchmark. And yet, only a year later, she has managed to hit that benchmark – and possibly even surpass it!
For readers who enjoyed The Dry, rest assured Force of Nature will give you exactly what you’re looking for and more. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk is back along with a new cast of complex and fascinating characters. Once again, the Australian landscape features so strongly that it’s almost like a character in its own right. Only this time, it is the ominous wilderness of the Australian bush that is brought so vividly to life – as opposed to a dusty, drought-ridden country town.
Force of Nature is a breathless, riveting and wholly immersive read virtually dripping with atmosphere and fraught with suspense. And because this is Jane Harper, it’s also an emotionally complex and cleverly plotted mystery that switches deftly between different timelines and points of view. Reading this book truly gave me the sense of being totally at the mercy of the elements, lost in a vast and uncontrollable wilderness with a storm brewing overhead and danger dogging my every step. It isn’t just the danger posed by the natural world which casts such a shadow of doom throughout this book, it’s also the threat of human violence a more insidious and malevolent danger that is echoed and amplified by the untamed landscape.
The plot is centred around a missing woman who vanished while hiking with a group of colleagues on a corporate retreat. Five women went into the bush but only four came out – and it so happens the missing woman was helping Aaron Falk with his latest case. He is therefore highly motivated to find out what happened to her and soon finds himself struggling to unravel an intricate web of secrets, lies, suspicion and betrayal.
Force of Nature is a truly worthy follow up to one of the best reads of last year. I can say with absolute confidence that it’s every bit as stunning as The Dry – and I’m tempted to say it might even be a little bit better!? I’m not sure – perhaps I should re-read The Dry for comparisons sake? (A challenge I will gladly accept!).
Review by Kirsty Ward
I inhaled this book. After thoroughly enjoying Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, I was SO excited to be handed Force of Nature to take on holidays. Oh, it did not disappoint at all and is just as enjoyable as The Dry.
Jane Harper grabs you from the first page and the book is seriously hard to put down. The story follows five female work colleagues who are thrust together on a corporate retreat, involving hiking and camping through the Giralang Ranges. Only four of the five women return from the retreat, with vague explanations about their harrowing experience, and injuries sustained that were more than just a few scratches from the bush.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns from The Dry to help with the investigation, as he had a particular interest in the missing bushwalker, who had been helping him with research into unusual financial activities of the company.
Of course, when a group of women from different walks of life are together, there are lots of great arguments and back-stories adding great flavour, reminding me a little of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.
Jane Harper’s writing is so easy to read, and I can just about smell the Australian bush in the pages from her descriptions. She very cleverly drops small hints to the mystery along the way, bringing it all nicely together at the end. This book will be a bestseller, and I would not be surprised to see it as a movie in the future. 5 stars from me!
About the Author
Jane Harper has worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK. Winner of the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, her bestselling first novel, The Dry sold to over twenty territories, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane lives in Melbourne with her husband and daughter.