BookBrowse Reviews Force of Nature by Jane Harper

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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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When a hiker goes missing in the Australian bush, , secrets and betrayal among friends are exposed, and Agent Aaron Falk investigates.

Force of Nature, Jane Harper's sequel to The Dry, garnered 4+ stars from 33 out of 37 First Impression reviewers, for an impressive average score of 4.5.

What it's about:
Force of Nature centers around the disappearance of Alice Russell while she is on a team-building retreat in the Australian bush with four female colleagues. The women become lost in the wilderness and Alice goes missing. The others make it out of the forest but they all claim not to know what happened to Alice. Federal Agent Aaron Falk (first encountered in Harper's debut, The Dry) becomes involved because Alice is an informant in an ongoing case. The story switches between the current search for Alice and flashbacks to what happened to the five women in the bush. The flashbacks have a Lord of the Flies quality as the frightened women turn on each other as their situation becomes more desperate (Terri O). Falk, teamed with new partner Carmen Cooper, must solve a crime that originates as corporate misconduct and ends with possible murder (Maureen R).

Readers felt it compared favorably to the first entry in the series, while also working well as a stand-alone mystery:
Force of Nature is just as good, if not better, than her first novel, The Dry (Terri O). My test for a good read is that it must make me want to read the author's other work. I'll be reading Ms. Harper's first book, The Dry, soon (Lauren T).

Many found the mystery gripping:
It's a taut, suspenseful whodunit with lots of twists and turns—keeping me on the edge of my figurative seat until the end. The author keeps the intensity high and the story-line moving. I read the novel in one sitting. The unraveling of what happened with Alice and the other characters was a genuine surprise (Barbara F). This book was a compelling read; I could not guess what the ending was going to be (Constance C).

Harper's characters are a highlight, and Aaron Falk's return is welcome:
The characters are complex and multi-layered. Not one character in this novel is without purpose and as the layers are peeled back, secrets and truths and strengths and vulnerabilities are exposed (Lynda C). They are by far the strongest forces driving the mystery to its unsettling, yet satisfying end (Cheryl K). Harper's Detective Falk is intriguing (Barbara E). I hope the author continues this series with him, he's an excellent character (Constance C).

As with The Dry, Australia's landscape plays an important part in the story:
Harper's descriptions of the bush are vivid and downright terrifying, as the vegetation becomes more dense and the trees close in on the lost hikers (Terry O). The terrain and climate are described beautifully and I was left with a very clear vision of the land and the physical challenges her characters experienced (Laure R).

A few did not connect with the book:
The author spent a lot of time on the back stories of the women in the novel, and while this may have added to the mystery they seemed somewhat contrived and didn't hold my attention. I was much more interested in the parts of the novel about the detectives and I found myself skimming through the other parts (Julie G). The petty arguing and the dredging up of old grievances from years before became annoying. The women not only argued about grievances among them, but also their children. I felt relieved when the story turned from the lost women to Falk and Carmen solving the crime (MaryJane B).

But most recommend it highly:
For fans of well-written, plot and character-driven page-turners, this tense, atmospheric novel is an excellent choice (Barbara F). Harper has written an atmospheric novel that checks all the boxes of book worth reading. The locale, the characterizations, the interplay between the people, and the twist at the end all keep the story engaging up to the conclusion. A highly recommended book (Norman G). It was easy for me to give this one five stars, I struggled to find a flaw. Another marvelous book in the Aaron Falk series! (DeAnn A).

This review was originally published in February 2018, and has been updated for the February 2018 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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