Force of Nature
By Jane Harper
Little Brown Book Group
Five went out.
Four came back…
Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.
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 landscape 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.
After devouring Jane Harper’s The Dry, I knew I wanted to read more of her novels. The Dry was an exceptionally good thriller full of plot twists and beautiful detailed description of the dried up draught landscape. I gave The Dry a 5* rating, (you can read my full review here) and Force of Nature 5* as well, another brilliant page turning thriller that by the end had me on the edge of my seat.
Every year the Baily Tennant Group take a group of men and women on a team building exercise to the Girlang Ranges. A 3 day camping and hike experience through a heavily forrested region of Melbourne. Every year the groups come back tired, relieved, feel a sense of achievement and get back in one piece. Until this year, when the girls don’t make it back for hours and hours and one of the girls, Alice doesn’t make it back at all!
Force of Nature sees the return of Agent Falk who is partnered up with Carmen and they are investigating Bailey Tennant for money laundering. They become very interested in this case because Alice was there main undercover cooperative, compiling files of evidence for the police.
I love the way Jane Harper slowly unfolds the story, peeling back the layers of characters, opinions, secrets and lies. This book is set in two time frames. The first is present day where you see Falk and Carmen investigating the disappearance of Alice. The second is the time line of events leading up to and on the excusion, you find out what really happened out in the forrest, and as this part of the story unravells you see that the girls are not being totally honest with the police. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone that went on the trip, I had my suspicions of what happened out there and Harper does put in some false leads, so it was really difficult to try and guess what happened to Alice.
This story gripped me from the start and like The Dry, Harper has a beautiful way of describing the landscape and environment the characters are in. She always makes you feel like you are stood there with them being surrounded by the claustrophobic trees, the howling wind and icy cold rain. She makes the story so atmospheric and creepy, which I think helps build up the tension between the characters even more, especially when they all become paranoid that someone is out there watching them behind the safety of the compact trees.
The plot, description, characters and environment make this book all come together as a nail biting intense thriller, as you get nearer to the climax of the story, the chapters get shorter and shorter and I found myself reading faster and faster, heart pounding and mind whirring trying to figure out what happened and who did what.
I was so delighted that Jane Harper succeed to write another amazing thriller, she is still my favourite author for this genre as I think her way of describing the environment and landscape is so unique and makes me feel like I am really part of the story and the investigation. I eagerly await to read her next novel The Lost Man, I know it will be just as good as her other two Falk novels.
Have you read any of Jane Harper’s novels? What do you think of them? Katie x