The natural order of things: read and love The Dry, then go on to read and love Force of Nature.
FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…
Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.
The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.
Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.
Force of Nature is book two in the Aaron Falk series, I’m always an advocate of reading series in order but this novel works perfectly as a standalone read. It features a new mystery and the references to Aaron’s past and the events that occurred in book one, The Dry, are minimal and do not impact on the current mystery. However, as it is a series, comparisons between the two are inevitable…
The immediate thing that stood out for me in this novel was the climate change; in The Dry, Harper used the sweltering heat to create a dark and suspenseful atmosphere, in Force of Nature, she uses the blistering cold and it is just as effective. It’s freezing, it’s wet, muddy and murky and these five women reluctantly go hiking – the title of this novel is apt because these women are indeed up against the force of nature and the one thing we all know about nature is, you cannot bend it to your will, all you can hope to do is survive it. Four did, but Alice never came back, and that’s the mystery here – what happened to Alice Russell?
In alternating chapters we get the story of the hike, the events that led to Alice’s disappearance and the mystery/investigation of what happened to her. The narration in the woods were my favourite part of the novel, mainly because I cannot think of anything more terrifying that hiking through a forest, especially with people I barely like. I wouldn’t even set up a tent in my back garden, in fact, I don’t even have a garden, so much is my dislike of nature, you’d be lucky if I open a window! So, with that knowledge you can understand why I was terrified for these woman, you can go ahead and fire me, for love nor money, I’m not doing it! The tension between these women was rife and from early on, you get this sense of impending doom, and along with the awful weather condition, you have your suspenseful atmosphere.
What I really liked about this novel was the role of Aaron Falk and his partner, Carmen, both extremely likeable; they work for the Financial Investigation Unit and are relying on Alice for some documents to build their current case. In a lot of mystery novels, you would see these detectives seconded to the police force investigating the murder, but here, they were forced to take a back seat into the investigation and rely on the information from the detective currently leading the investigation. This helped to build the suspense because when they were questioning the employees, they didn’t have all the facts as they weren’t on the frontline and this gave the plot a different dynamic to other mystery books, which I really liked.
There were also so many variables to content with in the investigation, so many possibilities that could be the reason for Alice’s disappearance, this made it next to impossible to figure out, ahead of time, what happened.
Harper has penned another very good novel, she has the ability to plot an intriguing mystery, using the weather to heighten tension and suspense, I hope this series continues!
This book is available to buy from: Amazon UK