Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Fiction Review: Force of Nature

My husband and I both enjoy Jane Harper’s Australian thrillers centered around Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, starting with her first, The Dry, which we both read last year. I gave him the second in the series, Force of Nature, and just finished reading it myself (the best kind of gift!). Once again, Harper's suspenseful and twisty novel kept me riveted.

While The Dry focused on a remote town plagued by drought, Force of Nature takes the action into a very wet environment (though still remote). Five women go into the woods (the Australian bush) on a Thursday for a weekend-long corporate backpacking retreat, a mandatory team-building activity for the family-run financial company. The men's group returns on time Sunday, but when the women's group finally staggers out of the forest, many hours late, there are only four women. One of them, Alice, is missing. The remaining women are Jill, a high-level executive who runs the family business with her brother; Lauren, a timid, nervous-seeming woman who had known Alice since they were girls in school together; and twin sisters, Beth and Bree. Bree is an executive assistant intent on working her way up in the company, while Bree is labeled as the trouble-maker, given a job (with her sister's help) in data entry in the basement after rehab and a stint in jail. Falk and his partner, Carmen, get called in because Alice just happens to be their main informant in building a case against the company. As the search for Alice continues, the higher-ups in law enforcement pressure Falk to finish obtaining the necessary evidence against the company, but how can they do that without Alice? Did she merely get lost? Did her prickly personality go too far and get her in trouble with her fellow hikers? Or is something more sinister going on? 

The narrative unfolds in two timelines: the present-day, as Aaron, Carmen, and the searchers try to find Alice and investigate what happened out in the wilderness, and in flashbacks to the backpacking trip itself, slowly unfolding from Thursday to Sunday. Along the way, while the police try to figure things out by interviewing the men and women involved, the reader also sees exactly what happened out in the wilderness, as one incident after another puts the group of women into greater danger and increases the already-strained relationships between them. This was one of those mysteries/thrillers where I suspected a different character/explanation every chapter or two, as the intricate threads of the story were slowly, gradually unwound. I really enjoyed this super-twisty, tense, and unpredictable story that kept me turning the pages until the very end.

324 pages, Flatiron Books


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  1. I have this on my summer list (and the third in the series) and am looking forward to it. I got my dad to read The Dry and now he's reading this one.

    1. You reminded me that my Dad would have loved the Jane Harper books! Sharing books and talking books with my Dad was one of the things my husband and I both enjoyed and miss very much. Have fun sharing this series with your Dad! Thanks for the happy memories :)