An intense, claustrophobic thriller set in the unforgiving bushland of Australia.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Published: 6th February, 2018
Series: Aaron Falk #2
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.
Only four come out on 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 encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.
The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.
You know a writing is is good, when reading about five people being exposed to rain and cold makes you shiver under your blankie. Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, was one of the most atmospheric stories I read last year. Force Of Nature is a bit different, but nevertheless highly enjoyable.
Ten people from the same office set out on a trip into the wildreness to participate in a team building that involves hiking and sleeping in the bushes. Sounds awful if you ask me. Like, I wouldn’t want to spend my weekend wandering around in some forest with my co-workers; seeing them Monday to Friday is more than enough. The women, Bree, Beth, Alice, Lauren and Jill are not particularly fond of each other, for various reasons, so you can already see this was never going to end well.
Aaron Falk has already got eyes on Alice, so when she doesn’t make it out of the woods, he and his new partner, Carmen get involved.
The chapters alternate between the investigation in the present, and the events of the fateful hike. What starts out as general bitching, soon turns into petty arguments, and later violence and borderline bullying. All the women have their own ideas about how to get out of their predicament, but of course they can’t agree on one plan, and emotions get out of hand.
Secrets come to light, deep rooted animosity surfaces; Aaron and Carmen have their work cut out for them, because none of these women seem keen on sharing details of their misadventure.
While The Dry was a typical slow burn, heavy with atmosphere, Force Of Nature is more of a well paced page turner, filled with little nuances of the characters feelings muddying the waters.
If there’s one thing that was absolutely not necessary, it was the subtle flirting between Aaron and Carmen. Just why? Eh…
P.S. I would totally love to go on a hike there.