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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 2019, 352 pages

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KatherineP

A Force of Nature--It Is!
Having read The Dry, I was really excited to receive the second installment of Harper's Falk series from BookBrowse to discuss on their website. I was not disappointed. Five women are selected to make a trek into the outback of Australia by their corporate employer in an effort to enhance workplace cooperation and morale. One of the five is one of the family who owns the company, the others hold various positions, from managers to subordinates. The object is to hike into the brushland in a very isolated area, make camp on three nights and rendezvous at a pick-up site by noon on Sunday for the 2 hour drive back to Melbourne. When the appointed hour is reached only four of the women arrive, they are exhausted, injured, bruised, bloodied and battered. The missing Alice is not a likeable woman but she is of special interest to Aaron Falk and his partner, since she has been working undercover for them to obtain important documents that will lead to the arrest of the principals of the company for money laundering and fraud.

So, where is Alice? Is she alive? Did she wander off when the group became disoriented and lost? Has she had an accident? Has she died or is she still out there, lost and victim of the elements? Each of the four women have a slightly different version of the four days spent isolated and frightened, without food or water and barely any protection from the cold and rain that they endured.

While Harper keeps the rescue teams and various law enforcement officers busy in the search and takes us along with them, she also cleverly, with short asides, takes us on the journey with the women, revealing to us, gradually the interpersonal relationships and dynamics among the women, as well as some of their personal history and family situations. As the dire situation of being lost and unable to communicate for help deteriorates, so too do the tempers and human considerations of the women. At the end, what happened to Alice is both shocking and yet, not totally unexpected.

A page turner and read, by me, in one day--nothing was more important than finding Alice and knowing her fate.
RebeccaR

Enjoyable, Realistic, Scary - All in One!
For anyone who has ever groaned (audibly or mentally) about team-building exercises in the work place or corporate retreats to hash out (yet again) job or co-worker issues, then Jane Harper's novel will instantly strike home. However, no matter what one's occupation may have been or is now, this book is sure to keep you reading, even if you do not categorize yourself as a reader of mystery books, per se. The relationships between all of the office employees are on edge as they deal with a rigorous corporate retreat which involves hiking and map reading and compass usage to - supposedly- bring them all together. It is clear from the start that many f these people tolerate each other rather than like or respect one another; their personal competitiveness is a realistic aspect of this book. In fact, the title iForce of Nature/i also applies to and is a sad commentary on human nature: the 'keeping up with the Joneses' syndrome, the one up-manship and the facade of perfect lives that people create on social media. However, intertwined with Harper's characters are a domineering company president, parenting concerns with sexually active teens, sibling rivalry intensified by substance abuse and failed job prospects, as well as very realistic fears about the remote setting itself.
There are a few points at which readers might think they have the outcome figured out, but the author continues to maintain the suspense. What's lacking are the stereotypes that can turn off a reader to the mystery genre: no super heroes with imaginary skills in solving crimes that stump anyone else; no miraculous personality changes that save the day.
Anyone who is not familiar with the works of Ms. Harper will most likely want to read other works by her at the completion of this book.
Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

another excellent example of Aussie Crime Fiction
“It wasn’t any one thing that went wrong, it was a hundred little things. It all kept adding up until it was just too late.”

Force of Nature is the second book in the Aaron Falk series by award-winning Australian journalist and author, Jane Harper. A late-night call has AFP agent Aaron Falk and his Financial Intelligence Unit partner Carmen Cooper heading for the Giralong Ranges. A corporate team-building weekend has gone wrong and one of the participants, Alice Russell, is missing. Alice is the whistle-blower in their current case, so Falk and Cooper are concerned that her actions have been exposed to their target, resulting in some sort of retaliatory action.

But when they arrive, the local Police Sergeant shares his own concerns: that Alice may be a victim of Sam Kovac, the son of notorious serial killer, Martin Kovac, whose killing field was in the Giralang Ranges. And as they question the remaining members of the party, they become aware of just how unpopular Alice was with her colleagues. Could she have come to harm at their hands? Or has the pressure simply become too much, prompting her to disappear off the scene? Has it anything to do with certain photos and clips spreading on social media?

Falk’s second outing is easily as fine as his first. The narrative alternates between Falk’s observations as he investigates, and the account of events during the weekend from the perspective of each of the four remaining participants. It soon becomes apparent that none of those questioned is completely candid about what happened, or what they know. The storyline is highly credible, with several twists and red herrings keeping the reader guessing right up to the exciting climax.

Harper effortlessly evokes the Australian winter mountain landscape, and her characters are typical of those one might encounter in an office environment. Falk’s inner monologue and his dialogue with Cooper give the reader insight into his career choice and personal history, and reinforce his integrity. This is another excellent example of Aussie Crime Fiction and, whether or not it features Aaron Falk, more from Jane Harper will be eagerly anticipated.
Lynda C. (Sault Sainte Marie, MI)

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
I quickly became absorbed in this excellent second novel by Jane Harper. Force of Nature sees the return of the intriguing Federal Agent Aaron Falk. He, along with his partner, Carmen Cooper, is investigating the disappearance of an informant Alice Russel. Alice has disappeared during a corporate team-building retreat in the Giralang Ranges.

For me, the compelling power of the storytelling in this book lives in the descriptions of the landscape and the characters. And their relationships.
The landscape is raw, treacherous, challenging, claustrophobic, dark, dangerous, sometimes beautiful...and echoes aspects of the characters.
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. The tensions between and among the characters around the central tragedy of the novel are what made the pages turn with rapid speed for me.

Aaron Falk is a fascinating character whom I hope plays a recurring role in future books. However, I am so impressed with Jane Harper that if she writes it, I will read it!
Jeanne B. (Albuquerque, NM)

What They Said
Almost anything I could write would be repetitive of my fellow BookBrowse five-star reviewers, with all of whom I agree completely. So I will just add this. Jane Harper writes mysteries as if they are the highest literary art form. If you like mysteries of any kind, you will love this book. If you like character-driven fiction, you will love this book. If you like to read books, you will love this book. I give Force of Nature my highest recommendation and sincerely hope the third book in the Aaron Falk series is nearing publication, as it will be hard to wait for more from this supremely talented author.
M K. (Minneapolis, MN)

Force of Nature
How do you feel about hiking in the unfamiliar Australian outback, following a topographical map on a team-building exercise with fellow workmates you don't even like? Such is the beginning of this page-turning novel where one of the participants doesn't return with the rest of her group. The story switches back and forth between the hike and law enforcement trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to the missing hiker. This is the tension that the novel feeds to you in slow delicious increments, and it's a book, that from the first few pages, is hard to put down for very long.
Alan K. (Westport, MA)

A Real Pager Turner
Although this is the second novel with Federal Agent Aaron Falk it can be read as a stand alone. Switching between the Federal Agents looking for a missing hiker and the hikers on a forced corporate retreat in the dangerous Australian bush it is a page turner right to the end. The characters are well developed as is the story line. I recommend this book for the mystery/suspense book lovers.
Sherrie R. (Fort Worth, TX)

Looking for a terrific mystery to lose yourself in?
Federal Agents Falk and Cooper are anxiously waiting to hear from their undercover source of a company they are investigating. At the same time the members are on an Outward Bound type of retreat in the deep woods. Five women go in but only four come out. What happens is told by alternating points of view, from the agents waiting on the outside....and the women who are confronted with multiple issues as they try to find their way out.
This is a fast paced thriller I couldn't put down.
Will definitely look for other books from this author.

Beyond the Book:
  Australia's National Parks

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