Force of Nature is the just released second novel from Jane Harper, author of the hugely popular bestseller The Dry. The two books are linked by the same main character, Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, but this book takes place six months later and in a completely new setting.
I previously wrote a review about The Dry which I enjoyed but thought was a bit over hyped. I came to reading Force of Nature without big expectations as sometimes second books from an author suffer the dreaded second book syndrome (i.e. are a bit disappointing). Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Force of Nature. It had an interesting premise that kept me intrigued and guessing all the way to the end. In some ways I liked it even better than The Dry.
Force of Nature is set in the rugged bushland of the fictional Giralang Ranges east of Melbourne. A group of five women go on a team building hike through the bush. But on the last day of the hike, only four women walk out. One of their group, Alice Russell, is missing. As a large search begins for the missing woman, Aaron and his partner Carmen become involved in the search for Alice’s whereabouts. It turns out Alice was secretly helping Aaron and Carmen investigate money laundering at BaileyTennants, the boutique accounting firm where all the women worked. And now she has disappeared before they can get their hands on some important documents.
Is Alice dead or just missing? Did she disappear on purpose or did one of the four women in her group have something to do with it? As Aaron and Carmen investigate, the story flashes back through multiple viewpoints to what happened day by day on the team building walk. I’ll leave it there so as not to give anything away.
I found Force of Nature completely engrossing and I kept reading in order to find out what happened to Alice. The rugged bushland setting took me back to bush walks I used to do with my family as a kid and how easy it was to get lost in some places. Plus I liked the idea of putting a bunch of work colleagues together in this environment and seeing how they interacted as things started going wrong.
The main character Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk didn’t really wow me in The Dry but more is revealed about him as a person in Force of Nature. As far as main characters in a crime/thriller books go, he’s not the most interesting character. I think I am used to investigators having drinking problems or complicated love lives or something… Aaron Falk is just a bit of an introverted guy who is not seeing anyone and doesn’t seem to have any hobbies apart from reading. But since we have that in common, who am I to judge? Still, I hope if he appears in other books that he develops more as a character.
Jane Harper has well and truly hooked me with her writing and I look forward to whatever she writes next.
Verdict: I highly recommend this book with its thrilling premise and plot that keeps you guessing to the end.