Force of Nature

by Jane Harper

A corporate team building exercise in Australia’s bush goes fatally wrong when five women hike into the Giralang Ranges and only four return.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk has a special reason for concern: the missing woman, Alice Russell, had been working undercover for him collecting evidence about suspected money-laundering at the boutique accounting firm BaileyTennants, which sponsored the retreat.

As if the threatening weather and oppressive  forests crowding in on the hiking paths weren’t ominous enough, the Giralang Range is tainted by a similar incident 25 years earlier when three young women were murdered and a fourth disappeared. Migrant laborer Martin Kovac was convicted of the murders, and then murdered in prison three years before the story begins. There are rumors that his son lurks in his father’s former territory.

As police question the four survivors, it’s clear that tensions were high among them. Alice was blunt, abrasive and a bully. As Jill Bailey, BaileyTennants chairman, told police: Alice could start an argument in an empty room. Almost as soon as the women realized they were lost, they argued about how best to get to the rendezvous point. Alice disagreed with the group and insisted on going ahead with her plan, regardless of what the others did.

As with her first novel, The Dry, Harper’s vivid and atmospheric descriptions of the setting and the weather become actors in the story. Her characters are complex. Harper reveals their histories in pieces that turn up the suspense about Alice’s fate page by page. It’s hard to put this book down once you start it.

I’m hooked on Jane Harper’s story telling. She’s a master at unusual circumstances and tangled relationships that don’t easily reveal themselves to investigators or readers.

For me, The Dry was the stronger book. Its plot was more unusual and unpredictable. That said, I’d still recommend Force of Nature to any mystery lover. Her most recent book, The Lost Man, published in February 2019 does not involve Aaron Falk. It does, however, feature the aunt of Elly Deacon, a character from The Dry.

About the Author: Jane Harper (1980 – )

Born in Manchester, England, Jane Harper and her family moved to Australia when she was eight. The family returned to the United Kingdom when she was a teenager.

She attended the University of Kent in Canterbury, studying English and history. After graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification. She worked on a number of newspapers before moving back to Australia in 2008, eventually taking a job with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, she submitted a short story to the Big Issue’s annual Fiction Edition. It was accepted for publication and inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously. She took an online writing class that lead to her first novel, The Dry (2016).

She lives in St. Kilda with her husband and daughter.


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