Force of Nature by Jane Harper Review

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.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature by Jane Harper, ISBN 9781743549094, 377pp

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. Continue reading

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins Review

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was on my to be read list for quite a while. I picked it up a couple of times and then put it down as I found the first few chapters hard to get into. But eventually I ended up getting through it during a long car trip and it was a book that got better as it went along.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
This follow-up book from the author of The Girl on the Train was probably never going to measure up to its predecessor’s success so I went into reading this without huge expectations.

Set in a small English town, it starts with the death of Nel Abbott, a single mother of a teenage daughter, Lena. Nel was obsessed with documenting the many drowning deaths of women in the local body of water called the Drowning Pool. Following Nel’s death, her sister Jules comes to town to take care of her niece and to try to reconcile her complicated feelings for Nel. They were not speaking when Nel died.

As the local police investigate Nel’s death, there is debate over whether this was a suicide or something more sinister. It’s the latest in a string of deaths that took place in the Drowning Pool stretching back many years and everyone in the small town has a theory or something to hide.

One thing I found overly complicated about this book was the amount of characters and viewpoints. Usually you will read a book from a few characters’ point-of-view but this had a huge amount of characters. I often got confused about which character’s point-of-view I was reading. Also, none of the characters are particularly likeable so I didn’t exactly care what happened to any of them.

But I am glad that I persevered with Into the Water because once I had sorted out all the characters and different strands of the plot it did start to get interesting. I think you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this book. If you are wanting your next read to be easy, light and a page turner then this isn’t the book for you.

Verdict: A book that is a hard slog at first but worth getting to the end of.

What’s a book you read that was hard to get into but was worth finishing?

The Dry by Jane Harper review

cover image of The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry by Jane Harper, ISBN 9781925481372, 339pp

If you’re reading a crime novel set in a small Australian country town you can be sure of a few things: the story will take place against a harsh, unforgiving natural landscape; there will be a bevy of local characters with secrets to hide–from hard-drinking farmers to small town gossips; everyone will know everyone in town and there will be a couple of long standing feuds; and there will be something bad that happened in the past which is somehow connected to this latest crime. That’s not to say that these books aren’t a pleasure to read, I just often see this pattern.

Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to pick up The Dry by Jane Harper. It was the book on everyone’s lips in 2016, winning rave reviews from critics and racing up the bestsellers chart. Booksellers and book lovers embraced this debut and you would have had to be living under a rock to not have heard about it. It has also been optioned for the screen by Reese Witherspoon. Even now, The Dry is still picking up accolades, the recent being Jane Harper winning the British Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of the year. Continue reading

The Betrayal: A Review

The Betrayal by Y.A. Erskine (ISBN 9781742750187, 432 pages, Published May 2012)

I have many reading goals: to read more books; to jump on reading bandwagons and see what the fuss is about; to read outside of my comfort zone and across different genres; and to read more books written by Australian authors. I’ve been doing all this so far, apart from the last point. I don’t read enough fiction by Australian authors.

Well, I’m happy to say that the book I’m about to review was written by an Australian – Y.A. Erskine. The Betrayal had me riveted from page one. I was surprised to learn that this is only the author’s second book because she writes like one of the crime writing pros.

The Betrayal is set in Hobart, Tasmania, and tells a story of corruption and injustice at the heart of the police system. A young constable, Lucy Howard, wakes up in bed with a colleague, Constable Nick Greaves. She has no recollection as to how she got into this situation. The last thing she remembered was having a sip of her third drink for the night and watching the start of a DVD with Nick.

Mortified by this experience, Lucy tries to put it behind her. She has a boyfriend who she is crazy about and Nick is just a good friend. But a couple of weeks later when talking to the victim of a sexual assault involving a date rape drug, everything becomes clear to Lucy. She can’t remember what happened with Nick because she was drugged. She is a victim of sexual assault.

But what can Lucy do? Nick is one of the most popular officers around. He is good-looking and has no problem attracting female attention. Who is going to believe Lucy’s story? It is difficult enough for any victim of rape, but how can one police officer accuse another of the same crime, especially in a culture where it’s hard enough for women to be granted respect? It’s also a culture where you don’t rat on your fellow police officer, no matter what. Lucy feels she has no other option but to report the crime – and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

The Betrayal is told from the point-of-view of various players: Lucy; the Detective Sergeant who she reports the sexual assault to, the corrupt Police Commissioner; the Detective Inspector charged with investigating police corruption; the police psychologist; friends of the accused; Lucy’s boyfriend; the accused; and more. What becomes clear is that everyone has their own agenda and for some helping out a “mate” comes before their duty to uphold the law and see that justice is served.

The more I read, the angrier I got and the more helpless Lucy’s quest for justice seemed. Her colleagues are divided as to whose side to be on. While some men support Lucy, others see this as another example that women don’t belong on the force. Surprisingly, some women also turn against her: some because by coming forward she has made it difficult for all women in the police force, others because they are friends of Nick’s and believe plain Lucy should be flattered she received Nick’s attention.

The plot of this book resonates as something that really could happen – and does happen. You often read of these cases in association with male-dominated workplaces like the military. It was no surprise to read that Y.A. (Yvette) Erskine spent eleven years in the Tasmanian Police Service. Her real-life experience brings even more authenticity to this story.

To find out what happens to Lucy, you’ll have to read The Betrayal for yourself. Just be prepared for your blood to boil during the process!