Name: Force of Nature
Author: Jane Harper
Number of Pages: 400 (Hardback)
Published: February 1st 2018 by Little, Brown
Genre: Mystery, Crime
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 Giralang Ranges 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 – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.
Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder? – from Goodreads
If I liked The Dry then I really liked Force of Nature.
Aarok Falk is back on the case as he and his partner Carmen investigate a disappearance. A group of women went out hiking for a teambuilding event. Five set out, four returned, and Alice Russell is missing.
She’s of particular interest to Falk as she was to provide crucial information regarding potential dodgy dealing at the company she works for, so her disappearance comes at a convenient time for some, and a very awkward time for Falk.
The narrative switches between the police investigation and the time the women spent together out in the wilds, and both are fast-paced and taut with tension.
What starts out as a little-anticipated teambuilding event (none of the women were overly eager to go) soon descends into a serious need to survive, and the women themselves are shocked at the turn their behaviour takes as resources begin to dwindle and rescue seems a lifetime away.
The setting for Force of Nature was fantastic. The women go off-track into the forest, the paths getting narrower and harder to trace, the trees closing in on them from all sides; there’s a really claustrophobic air to it, which intensifies the longer they’re stuck out there becoming more and more lost with each wrong turn they take.
There’s something quite creepy about the great outdoors in this context – the darkness, the cold, the threat of wild animals, and that’s before you add in the fact that the area these women have gone to was once the haunt of a serial killer.
The tension created between the group gives so many potential suggestions for what could have befallen Alice. Will she walk out of the forest alive? Did someone know she was about to inform on suspect activities within the company? Was someone else following the group and spied an opportunity for a random attack? Or was it personal? As details come to light about the lives of the women and their families there are just so many possibilities.
And with each revelation the chapters become shorter, switching from the present to the time of the disappearance which makes it so easy to think ‘just one more chapter, I HAVE to know what’s happened’.
I didn’t guess what had happened, and that made the read all the more entertaining. I’ll definitely look out for Jane Harper‘s next novel.