Excerpt from Force of Nature by Jane Harper, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Force of Nature

A Novel

by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper X
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 8, 2019, 352 pages

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1

"Don't panic."

Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who until that moment had had no plans to do so, closed the book he'd been reading. He swapped his mobile phone to his good hand and sat up straighter in bed.

"Okay."

"Alice Russell is missing." The woman on the other end said the name quietly. "Apparently."

"Missing how?" Falk put his book aside.

"Legitimately. Not just ignoring our calls this time."

Falk heard his partner sigh down the line. Carmen Cooper sounded more stressed than he'd heard her in the three months they'd been working together, and that was saying a lot.

"She's lost in the Giralang Ranges somewhere," Carmen went on.

"Giralang?"

"Yeah, out in the east?"

"No, I know where it is," he said. "I was thinking more of the reputation."

"The Martin Kovac stuff? It doesn't sound anything like that, thank God."

"You'd hope not. That'd have to be twenty years ago now, wouldn't it?"

"Going on for twenty-five, I think."

Some things would always linger, though. Falk had been barely a teenager when the Giralang Ranges had dominated the evening news for the first time. Then three more times over the next two years. Each time, images of search teams tramping through overgrown bushland with sniffer dogs straining at their leads had been projected into living rooms around the state. They'd found most of the bodies, eventually.

"What was she doing all the way out there?" he asked.

"Corporate retreat."

"Are you joking?"

"Unfortunately not," Carmen said. "Turn on the TV; it's on the news. They've called out a search crew."

"Hang on." Falk climbed out of bed and pulled on a T-shirt above his boxers. The night air was chilly. He padded through to his living room and turned to a twenty-four-hour news channel. The anchor was talking about the day in parliament.

"It's nothing. Just work. Go back to sleep," Falk heard Carmen murmur in his ear, and realized she was talking to someone at the other end. He'd automatically pictured her in their shared office, squeezed behind the desk that had been shoehorned in next to his twelve weeks earlier. They'd been working closely since, quite literally. When Carmen stretched, her feet knocked his chair legs. Falk checked the clock. It was after 10:00 P.M. on a Sunday night; of course she would be at home.

"See it yet?" Carmen said to him, whispering now for the benefit of whoever she was with. Her fiancé, Falk assumed.

"Not yet." Falk didn't need to lower his own voice. "Wait—" The ticker tape scrolled across the screen. "Here it is."

SEARCH TO RESUME AT DAWN IN GIRALANG RANGES FOR LOST MELBOURNE HIKER ALICE RUSSELL, 45.

"Melbourne hiker?" Falk asked.

"I know."

"Since when has Alice—" He stopped. He was picturing Alice's shoes. High. Pointy.

"I know. The bulletin said it was some sort of team-building exercise. She was part of a group sent out for a few days and—"

"A few days? How long has she actually been missing?"

"I'm not sure. I think since last night."

"She called me," Falk said.

There was a silence at the other end of the line. "Who did? Alice?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"Last night." Falk pulled his cell phone away and scrolled through his missed calls. He put it back to his ear. "You still there? Early this morning, actually, around four thirty. I didn't hear it. Only saw the voice mail when I woke up."

Another silence. "What did she say?"

"Nothing."

"At all?"

"There was no one there. I thought it was a pocket dial."

The TV bulletin put up a recent picture of Alice Russell. It looked like it had been taken at a party. Her blond hair had been pinned in a complicated style, and she was wearing a silvery dress that showed off the hours she spent in the gym. She looked a good five years younger than her true age, maybe more. And she was smiling at the camera in a way she never had for Falk and Carmen.

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Excerpted from Force of Nature by Jane Harper. Copyright © 2018 by Jane Harper. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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