- Barbara Copperthwaite
Review: FORCE OF NATURE, Jane Harper
‘The plotting is clever and intricate’
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.
The thought of a team building exercise is enough to strike fear and dread into most people’s hearts at the best of times, but in Force of Nature it is the clever launching point for a brilliant whodunit.
One again, a strong sense of place is key as Aaron Falk investigates; although this time it is the cold, drizzle-encased bushland of Australia. It is a slow burner, with twists and turns, and emotional insight, along with strong characters. The plotting is clever and intricate, and once again feels like a hybrid of psychological thriller and police procedural, something that is unique to Jane Harper, and which I feel works really well. With this book, the author consolidates her position as an author with a brilliant future ahead of her.
I do wish that this had been the first in Jane Harper’s new series, rather than the second, because it is really good. But not as good as The Dry. As a result, it suffers by comparison, which really isn’t fair as The Dry was a spectacular tour de force of writing, emotion, and atmosphere. Coming up with its equal was always going to be a tough ask, particularly given how it stormed the globe. So, my advice to you would be to do what I did: forget about expectations, and simply enjoy Force of Nature as a book in its own right. If you do that, you’ll be transported.