Force of Nature – Jane Harper

I love the book title, Force of Nature. Was the publisher making a comment about the epic struggle the characters in this story experience pitted against the Australian bushland, or was it more a statement about Jane Harper  herself, I wonder? Set in the Giralang Ranges east of Melbourne, 5 women set out on a so-called corporate ‘bonding’ weekend hiking through the forest, but only 4 come out the other side…

Having devoured Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry last year, I found I wasn’t as immediately drawn into the story this time, perhaps because it took me a little while to get to grips with the disjointed structure, but once I had the chance to sit down and read at length, I found myself as compelled as ever to read on. Jane Harper’s gift for building dramatic tension and making the vast landscape of Australia seem so horribly claustrophobic is truly impressive. Aaron Falk, from The Dry, features again as the financial investigator from the Australian Federal Police and prior to one of the women going missing (Alice) Aaron was working with her to uncover some dodgy practices within the company, the selfsame company that has sent some of its employees on this weekend experience to improve relations and motivation. Oh the irony…

What really worked for me was the way in which Harper unpeeled the complex layers of relationships between the characters involved, the gradual unravelling of plot and cause of discontent and her ability to build personas in an understated but poignant way. That and the intensity of the setting of course: Force of Nature is as cloyingly damp as The Dry was chokingly dusty. You are immersed in atmosphere.

I envy Jane Harper’s deft handling of the intricacies of the story, the way she weaves her timelines and subtle conflict into the plot. It left me feeling intensely satisfied and chafing for a third Aaron Falk crime novel.

Force of nature

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