Jane Harper’s first novel, The Dry, published to worldwide acclaim, and film rights were snapped up by Reese Witherspoon. The burning question is her second novel, Force of Nature, as good? I think it is easily as good, if not better, than her debut novel. Force of Nature is a compelling, page-turning read with excellent characterisation and tension that is ramped to the highest level from the opening to the end.
Five women very reluctantly go on a corporate ‘team-building’ hike, far away from their BaileyTennants office, through the muddy tracks of the rugged Girlang Ranges. Only four of them come out the other side. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, who was also a key character in The Dry, returns – and he has a particular interest in the missing women, Alice Russell. She was due to give them information as part of their investigation into alleged fraud at BaileyTennants, a family-run business. But now she is missing, maybe dead. Does this relate to their investigation? At the same time the five women were hiking through the bush, there was also five men from the office hiking a separate track – including the chief executive. Are they involved somehow? Or is her disappearance due to the growing tension among the five women, all of which agree that ‘Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.’ Or has it something to do with a twenty-year-old serial killer case that took four victims in horrific crimes all those years ago?
The novel deftly takes chapter about between the women lost in the bush, and the search for Alice after the other four make it out. Jane Harper does an excellent job drawing out all the back stories of the women, so as the book progresses you understand the deep resentment many of them harper towards Alice – a woman it is very easy to dislike. Jane Harper also does an excellent job following the story of Aaron Falk, who is investigating with his partner Carmen, and slowly getting closer to the devastating truth. Force of Nature is ultimately a corporate retreat that goes horribly wrong, and instead of teamwork, there is suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. An excellent thriller, simply first rate.