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Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2)
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Force of Nature > Force of Nature - Jane Harper

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whytania | 5 comments Mod
Force of Nature: A Review

Five women on a corporate retreat in the bushland of the Giralang Ranges in Australia, each bringing a unique set of skills and personality traits, along with some secrets, grudges, and bitter jealousies. Throw in biting cold weather, wet hiking gear, an inability to read a map, and what could possibly go wrong? What begins as a team building exercise, intended to teach resilience and cooperation, becomes an intense search for a missing person.
“Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.”
When only four women emerge from the dense forest, Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk has more than one reason to hope that Alice Russell has simply gone off the path and gotten herself hopelessly lost. Alice has been recruited by Aaron to blow the whistle on her employer who has allegedly been laundering money and she was due to deliver the incriminating documents the very day that she seems to have disappeared. Aaron and his partner, Carmen Cooper, are drawn into the search and rescue effort when on the second night of the retreat, Aaron receives a haunting phone call from Alice. He believes she has misdialed until he hears two barely audible words: ‘hurt her’.
The story is delivered in a split narrative format, with Aaron Falk supplying the story of the search and rescue efforts in the present, alternating with a recounting of events from the perspective of Alice Russell’s four co-workers, effectively giving the reader a deeper understanding of just how a trust building exercise quickly metamorphosed into scenes with an element of savagery not usually exhibited on a work outing. The characters are bound together through the past and family ties and each narrator contributes some history and context to the personal connections that contribute to the mystery of what happened to Alice, without revealing any real hints beyond the feeling of conflict, hostility and disintegrating trust between the five co-workers. It is through these narrative breaks that we learn the most about the woman who has gone missing and the women who claim they don’t know what happened. Alice Russell is a bully and each of her co-workers has been on the receiving end of Alice’s antagonistic behavior, leading the reader to the conclusion that Alice Russell may have brought whatever happened to her on herself. There are two intriguing aspects of the mystery of Alice Russell’s disappearance. One is the lengths that people will go to in order to protect their family. The other is that the reader doesn’t know throughout the story whether Alice is missing, dead, or simply hiding.
Just like in Jane Harper's first book, during which the reader can feel the dry, crackling heat of Aaron’s home town in The Dry, Harper’s descriptions of the biting cold and damp of the unforgiving landscape of the Giralang Ranges creates an atmospheric energy that contributes greatly to the suspense and tension that continues to build right to the very end. Corporate whistleblowing, secrets and grudges, a cryptic phone call, and just enough red herrings to keep you engrossed until the gripping conclusion. I look forward to the next novel featuring Aaron Falk.

Susan (susanopl) | 472 comments Mod
Your review brings to mind The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens. It's the story of a group of people on a mountain, and we know that one of them doesn't make it down. It's not drawn around a police investigation, however. It's more a story of survival and endurance, and the bonds that can form when faced with a challenge.

whytania | 5 comments Mod
Yes, I saw the similarities to The Mountain Story too, but it reminded me more of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In this case the characters are put to the test, and instead of rising to the challenge and learning about teamwork and leadership skills, they turn on each other and let suspicion and distrust guide their decisions until someone pays the price. It's a bit chilling!

Jenniferria | 14 comments I just finished this book! I didn’t like it as much as The Dry. I just couldn’t get invested in these characters enough, they all seemed a little superficial.

I do love Harper’s use of nature and the elements to really set the stage for her stories. You can almost taste the places she’s talking about.

whytania | 5 comments Mod
Yes, I also noticed that there was not as much character development in this 2nd novel. It didn't worry me too much with the secondary characters, I felt we got enough information to understand their character and see their secrets. But Force of Nature doesn't delve as deeply into what makes Aaron tick - maybe because The Dry was more of a personal journey for Aaron and this time the events revolve around his work? I'll be interested to see if Carmen returns for the next book as a deeper relationship was definitely hinted at.

Susan | 130 comments Hi. Thanks for the recommendation. I really enjoyed this book and, based on the comments of the group, will look for the first in the series which most claim to be better. Lots of germane topics about corporate life, bullying, etc. And a good mystery too.

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