I am one of those very, very luck people who sometimes get books for free for review purposes. When I come home from work and see a parcel waiting for me I rip into it as if there is a time limit on its survivability. Any delay and the parcel will implode and be rendered useless. This particular parcel was non-descript (like they all are) but contained a book I was so excited about reading, that I did a little jig of happiness. Not only that, but it was signed. I might have died a little with joy.
A little over a year ago I reviewed Jane Harper’s The Dry and today I bring you a review of the sequel, Force of Nature.
Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?
When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.
But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?
There is something about the premise of a corporate retreat which makes me break out in a cold sweat. I have been on maybe two in my working career and they were both actually fine but my instant reaction is always NO, DON’T MAKE ME GO AND BOND. By having Force of Nature start with something I can relate to and feelings I can understand, I was hooked.
Actually as a side note, I recently read a lovely romance which had a very different take on a team bonding day and if my days went in the same way I would probably quite quickly change my mind. And as another side note I had a London 2012 GamesMaker reunion a little while ago. There I spent most of the lunch discussing The Dry with one of my old team mates who read the book for her book club. We both loved it. Anyhoo, back to the task at hand – Force of Nature.
We meet four of the five women as they run out of the woods hours and hours after they were supposed to, scared and terrified. Then the time line shifts and we meet all five women as they start their trip. Already there was a sense of foreboding over the proceedings; things weren’t going quite right, no one was very happy.
Aaron Falk and his colleague Carmen Cooper (both FBI) are brought into the case when we discover that Alice, the missing woman, was about to deliver papers exposing malpractice at the company where they all worked.
Jane Harper has that enviable skill where her words seem to have no effort to them – I bet she works bloody hard at this – and as a reader her balanced, articulate, and simple prose told a story with nuance, flow, and cleverly placed clues which I only realised after the denouement. There are times when multiple timelines are jarring but not with Force of Nature; both were so compelling. We simultaneously follow the action between the lodge which is the hub of the search for Alice, and the hike along the trail itself where we find out exactly what happened.
In the former it was all about Aaron Falk – as a character he was written so well in The Dry and here we learn a lot more about his childhood, his relationship with his father, and with his partner Carmen. She is also a brilliant addition to this world. In the latter it was the oppressive nature of the hike, the thick tress and limited food along with power struggles, hostilities, and desperation which really got me. The harsh Australian landscape was set so well.
The ending I didn’t see coming. I thought I knew exactly who did it and why but then the rug was pulled out from under my feet wonderfully. Honestly I don’t know why I still bother to try and solve the crime before the characters actually do solve it; apart from once I never get it right.
Read Force of Nature everyone. It’s gripping, clever, and leaves me ongoing for more books starring Aaron Falk and hopefully Carmen Cooper. I thank the publishers Little Brown, and Kimberley specifically so much for sending me a copy (signed!) of this book to read and review. My mum also thanks you as she devoured it after me. I am part of a blog tour and apart from me, there are some amazing bloggers involved.
Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my review at all.