Force of Nature

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Feb 2018

Member Reviews


I *loved* The Dry. I'd barely finished the book when my mother absconded with it, and now it's making the rounds of her friends. The Dry was well-paced and atmospheric--I felt I was right there along with Falk, itching to get out of that creepy little town, but compelled to stay for some answers, too. 

Force of Nature is good, too... but not quite on the same plane.
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I liked the setting as it was an original concept with the group of woman in the wilderness on a corporate retreat.  The story being told between the present and the past kept the pace moving.  I really like the Aaron Falk character and look forward to more of his story.
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The follow up to Jane Harper’s Force of Nature is just as good as you would expect given her excellent debut. 

She is a master of creating a setting with a presence as strong as that of any character’s. While The Dry was set in an oppressive heatwave in a too-empty expanse of flat land, Force of Nature thrusts Aaron Falk and his new partner, Carmen, into an equally oppressive setting, this time the dense woods of the Giralang Ranges. In the trees are murmurs at the edge of sanity, where suspects, victims, and investigators alike are haunted by their emotions, secrets, and pasts. 

I can’t wait to see what Harper has up her sleeve next. In the dense forest of mystery writers, Harper is a landmark tree among the likes of Louise Penny and Tana French, who tower high above the rest. 

Review also provided on Goodreads:
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FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper is exactly the type of thriller I love to read. Full of wilderness survival and the heightened tension caused by the situation, this book is an exciting foray into a modern whodunit.

Two groups set off on an organized hike through the bushland of the Giralang Ranges in Australia. The women and men are separated for this corporate group challenge. It’s supposed to be a team-building exercise to improve their working environment. When one of the women goes missing, is anyone safe? Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen Cooper join the investigation when they realize the missing woman is their informant for another crime.

Falk and his partner aren’t experienced in bushcraft, so their journey is expected to be harrowing. Falk’s memories of his father clarify him better as a person. A little sexual tension with his partner add to his inner struggles. The real kicker, though, is the serial killer history of the area they’re searching.

I could feel the creepy coming on that had been building by the last quarter of the book. Who did it? What will the DNA tell? Is anyone out there? Where is Alice? Jane Harper’s method of telling a story captivates from the beginning and I can’t wait to turn the next page. She also made me hungry for Pasta Bolognese. I could smell the garlic sizzling in the pan and see the sauce thicken. No fair making me hungry AND scared!

I love how Jane Harper lays out a story. We meet all the personalities and are given hints about what may or may not have happened. The layers start as we gather for the search for the missing person, then we’re guided backwards in time to “see” what transpired before she went missing. I especially love the outdoor wilderness setting in the Giralang Ranges.

Having experienced THE DRY by Jane Harper in audio, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy reading FORCE OF NATURE as much. The bonus of an accented narrator telling the story has its benefits. But, it didn’t take long to get hooked on reading FORCE OF NATURE. The only negative is that I finish this author’s books too fast and am left hungry for more.

I can’t say FORCE OF NATURE is better than THE DRY because they’re so different. Both are good for varied reasons. I did like the less gory nature of this book. It didn’t freak me out as much with ghastly images. I really loved the wilderness setting and the survivalist instincts in FORCE OF NATURE. The twists kept me guessing, mistakenly making me fear for the characters. What I love most about FORCE OF NATURE is that the end feels more polished than THE DRY. I seem to know Falk better this time around and I like his plans for the future, which shows his heart. The polished feel of the book is the reason I rated this one slightly higher than the previous story.

I highly recommend Jane Harper’s books to thriller fans. She has mastered storytelling that’s very addictive.

Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest.
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Imagine having to go on a corporate retreat in the imagine one of your teammates not coming back.  Jane Harper crafts suspenseful stories so well.  This is a great book to follow up her blockbuster, The Dry.
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Whenever someone at work describes after-work team building exercises, I cringe, rightfully so, but Jane Harper made them even more cringe-worthy in her latest mystery, Force of Nature.

Five female colleagues, on a corporate weekend retreat, go into a remote wilderness on a hiking adventure, but only four return. Agent Aaron Falk is called in on the case, and he quickly discovers that each of the remaining four has a slightly different story about fights they got into, how they got lost, and what happened to their missing colleague.

Told in alternating chapters between Agent Falk’s investigation and what happened at different times on their retreat, Force of Nature is my kind of mystery. It’s not bloody or gruesome, there is no brutal sexual assault scene, and there are a lot of characters, all with motive. I didn’t know who did what and all their secrets spilled out slowly as their retreat unfolds and Agent Falk talks to witness after witness.

And even though I liked many things, I didn’t love the ending, and there was no huge ah-ha moment, but it’s a nice little mystery with good character development. All the women are fully fleshed out and Agent Falk is clearly in love with his partner, so I’ll have to backtrack and read the first Agent Falk mystery, The Dry. It was Jane Harper’s debut last year and everyone I know really liked it. If it’s as character-driven as this one, I’ll have to keep my eye on Harper’s future works.
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Author Jane Harper excels at creating an atmospheric setting that drives a tale forward.  Often the tale the reader is following is not quite the one the author is telling;  that is the beauty of her work.  In this, her second work, she once again performs the magical work of dangling a story in front of our eyes, only to pull another one, or two, out later.  It is literary magic and a joy to read.  While our investigator, Aaron Falk, has appeared before, I was slow to remember him.  Although I loved the previous book.  My attention was riveted upon the mystery at hand and the investigators were less interesting.  Frankly, that’s a nice change from all the books that focus the other way around.  Sometimes you just want the mystery and not the personality of the investigator shadowing everything. This is a fascinating book, filled with layers of surprise and deceit.  Another great mystery by a fantastic writer.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Book Review: Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) by Jane Harper

5 Stars.

This was much better than Jane Harper’s previous novel  The Dry. Whatever was wrong with The Dry, this book got it right.

Five women go on a hike. Only four of them return!!

BaileyTennants is an accounting firm based out of Melbourne. They organize a corporate retreat, where as a part of “team building activity” they go on a hike to Giralang Ranges. One of the women Alice Russell goes missing during the hike. Alice Russell is an informant in one of the money laundering cases handled by Federal Agent Falk & his partner Carmen. On the night she went missing, Aaron Falk receives a voicemail from her. He couldn’t hear most of it but in the end he hears someone saying the word “ hurt her”. Faced by curiosity and guilt, Falk joins the search team.

The story is told in two perspectives in alternative chapters:

Aaron Falk & the police searching for Alice Russell
What actually happened during the hike?
With every chapter, the story picks up the pace!. Again, Jane harper has made best out of the characters and the location of the plot. Giralang ranges is creepy. It’s not only known for its dangerous trekking routes but also for the hiding place of  a serial killer Martin Kovach. With her vivid descriptions, she takes you on a hike along with the characters.

Now the five women Jill, Alice, Lauren, Beth and Bree. Jane harper has done a great job in defining each of the characters and their backstory. The tensions and dynamics between the five women during the hike was amazing. There is never a dull moment as it keeps you guessing.

In my last review for the dry, I wrote:

As far as the main character Aaron Falk is concerned, he is good but not great. When you create a character for a series, the unique traits of a character is important. I think that differentiates a stand alone novel and a series. I personally felt Aaron Falk lacked those traits. He could be your next door Tom, Dick or Harry. Nothing special. I’m hoping to see more of him in the author’s next book.

Has my view on Falk changed with this book? A little bit. We see a little bit more into his life and mind. But I beleive he still needs little more of a character. The hint for romantic connection between Carmen and Falk seems interesting and I would like to see how that works out.


Thanks to ARC from Netgalley and Flariton books
Verdict: Force of Nature by Jane Harper is the way that thrillers should be written. Just done right ! 5 stars !!
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Always love Jane Harper. Just as good as The Dry. This will be one of our book options for August.
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I really liked The Dry, so I was thrilled to see this available for request on NetGalley. Harper's sophomore effort doesn't disappoint, as it twists and turns and never goes quite where you expect.
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I loved The Dry, so I was a little worried Force of Nature wouldn't live up to my expectations. It absolutely did. It was so good. I hope Jane Harper continues with this series. I will happily keep reading about Aaron Falk.
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I enjoyed this book and the intrigue in it. The characters were very believable and had flaws you could relate to. The premise of the story was very plausible in this corporate age where they do strive to improve team work. I will definitely read this author again.
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Force of Nature is the second book featuring agent Aaron Falk.  We first met him in The Dry.  I enjoyed that book, so I was looking forward to reading this one.  This time around, five women go into the woods for a corporate team building weekend and only four come back out.  The missing woman, Alice is involved in a case that Falk is working on.  

I actually liked this one a bit more than the first one.  The story is told through flashbacks and the present just like the first book.  I found the pacing smoother and faster here.  I was engaged the entire time and definitely didn't call the ending. I'm not going to give anything away so I won't talk plot too much.  With a lot of suspects, I was kept guessing. We learn a bit more about Falk in this one.  I still really like him as a character.  I didn't feel like you really needed to read the first book to get a sense of his character and motivations.  References are made to the happenings in the first book, but this is an easy stand alone. I highly recommend this one as well as The Dry.  I look forward to following Falk on his next case.
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Agent Aaron Falk returns in another great thriller from Jane Harper. Five women start on a hike through the Australian wilderness, but only four return. The missing woman is helping Falk and his partner in an investigation. Falk helps in the search for the missing woman while attempting to figure out what really happened. Harper keeps the reader guessing the whole time while increasing the tension until the end. A must read.
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Aaron Falk and his new off-sider are off to the bush to follow the hunt for the missing hiker, Alice Russell. What interest could the Australian Federal Police have in a woman who’s been lost while hiking with a group? Seems she’s instrumental in their investigation into suspected money laundering by the company she works for.

I am a big fan of Harper’s first novel, The Dry, which took place in drought-affected rural Victoria. This could easily have been called The Wet, because although it takes place in the same Australian state, the action takes place in the rain in steep, heavily wooded ranges where it’s easy to get lost.

The writing is as good and as descriptive as the first novel. I just didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them. The story is about a corporate team-building camping trip in the pouring rain, which just made me feel cold and miserable the whole time. 

The main characters are the women, one of the whom is the boss, two of whom are twins, and two of whom went to high school together and had a year ‘roughing it’, camping and such, as much as their posh girls’ school allowed. They did learn to use a compass, light fires and such, so you’d think the trip would go well.

You’d be wrong. One of the sisters wants to use the compass while the other is in charge of the maps. The fact that they have a love-hate relationship doesn’t help. 

The chapters go back and forth between Falk and the Alice-hunt, and the women from the first day they hike off into the wet woods towards the waterfall. 

There’s a men’s team and an undercurrent of something desperate taking place ‘at home’ that the boss of the men’s team and Alice are both anxious to get back and take care of. This is on top of the secret investigation and Falk’s urgency to find Alice and whatever information she’s unearthed at work.

He reflects a fair bit on the filth which money-laundering perpetuates, including drugs and child exploitation. Of course it’s a lousy business, but it didn’t seem like a good enough reason for him to be traipsing around in the freezing wet bush after an informant. And it sounded a bit preachy.

Alice is a prickly individual. Even her boss, Jill, is wary of her, thinking that “being around Alice was like owning an aggressive breed of dog. Loyal when it suited, but you had to stay on your toes.”

There seem to be rather a lot of things that go bump in the night along with ghost stories about the serial killer who used to live in the area and is he really dead and/or are the stories true about his son picking up where dad left off?

“She put up her hand. ‘Shh.’ They all heard it at once. A crack. Jill held her breath, her ears ringing in the void. Nothing. Then another crack. This time the broken rhythm of debris snapping underfoot was unmistakable. Jill took a fast step backwards. Lauren turned, her face grey in the stark light. ‘There’s someone out there.’”

The past history between the women, the problems at home, the urgency to get back and then the fights that break out when the women get lost, and the recriminations about who bullied whom back at school, and which twin has an addictive personality - all that on top of the AFP investigation and then the awful weather felt like several plot lines that didn’t seem well-meshed together.

But I’ll look forward to her next novel in spite of my disappointment with this one.
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I was looking forward to reading this novel after really enjoying The Dry last year. I wasn't disappointed. The alternating perspectives and short chapters really kept the story moving and I was anxious to see how everything would unfold as to what actually happened in the wilderness. There was also a lot of interpersonal dynamics among the group of female co-workers, which was also interesting.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a digital review copy of this book.
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How do you follow up a debut that was arguably the best crime novel, debut or otherwise, of its year? That's the question facing Australian Jane Harper, who burst onto the scene with the searing Outback-set murder mystery THE DRY, which scooped numerous awards and 'best of the year' accolades, including the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger for the best crime novel in the world last year.

In FORCE OF NATURE, Federal agent Aaron Falk is squelching through mud and battling the wintry chill in the Giralang Ranges outside of Melbourne, rather than battling the heat in the parched and drought-striken farmland landscapes of his childhood hometown in THE DRY. His vision is obscured by rain instead of sweat, but he's battling the elements as well as criminals, just the same.

Falk and his AFP colleague Carmen Cooper are in the Giralangs, a place with a morbid history, because the hiker missing from a 'team building exercise' was in fact their inside woman for a fraud case their financial crimes unit is building against Bailey Tennants, the company doing the retreat.

As they investigate what happened on the multi-day hike, Falk and Cooper uncover a tale of brittle group dynamics, suspicion, and eroding trust. It was an arduous hike for the office workers, and among the mud and strain something went horribly wrong. The four women who walked out say Alice was causing problems then left of her own accord, striking out on her own to get help against the wishes of the rest of the group. But are they telling the truth? Was Alice waylaid by Mother Nature, one of the women themselves, or someone else who is stalking the Giralangs?

Harper does another fantastic job creating a brooding, atmospheric tale where nature itself casts a character-like shadow over the storyline. There's an eeriness to the majestic Giralangs, a sense of timelessness mixed with a simmering sense of danger. Falk's own father used to walk these trails, as did a vicious serial killer who hunted his prey nearby. What sort of dangers lurk now?

With its isolated and malevolent setting, FORCE OF NATURE is like a modern version of a classic ‘country house’ murder mystery: a dislikeable victim, limited suspects, and plenty of secrets.

Overall, Harper's sophomore novel is an absolute cracker, further developing the character of Falk while showcasing the author's great touch for intertwining fascinating plot-lines and powerful landscapes. For me personally I'm not sure if FORCE OF NATURE quite reaches the heights of the superlative THE DRY, but it makes a bloody good attempt. It certainly cements Harper as a terrific new voice in global crime writing who won't ever have to worry about being a one-hit wonder.

A top crime novel from a top author. More please.
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Force of Nature by Jane Harper is a highly recommended thriller set in the Giralang mountain range north of Melbourne, Australia. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, from Harper's debut novel The Dry, is back. 

Five women from the BaileyTennants accountancy firm set out on the trek in the Giralang range while on a corporate wilderness retreat, but only four return.  From the start, before the team building exercise went awry, it was clear that the participants were all reluctantly participating. After all, it is one thing to work with your colleagues and another to go hiking in the cold and rain through the wilderness with them. When the women are late for the pickup time, and then finally make it out of the wilderness minus one member and different stories, it is clear that something happened.

Federal agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper become involved when the missing woman, Alice Russell, turns out to be their informant in their investigation of the accounting firm and an on-going money-laundering scheme.  It is unclear if her disappearance has anything to do with their case, because Alice seems to be universally disliked for any one of a number of reasons. Adding to the mystery is the legacy left by a serial killer who murdered young women in the same area twenty years ago. He is dead, but is there a copy-cat?

I appreciate the well-developed characters and setting. The novel expertly portrays the distrust between the five women and reasons for it, including Alice's cruelty and bossy behavior in the present and the past. The women and their backgrounds are slowly revealed, along with current circumstances that influence their relationships with each other. The weather and location both add additional dimensions to the story - wet, gloomy, cold, and dark, oppressive, somewhat sinister.  There is also more insight into Falk's character for those who read The Dry, although Force of Nature can be read as a stand-alone novel.

The narrative helps propel the plot forward as it alternates between  Alice and the other women, revealing their secrets and past relationships, and Falk's thoughts and investigation. Harper's writing is just as brilliant this time and Force of Nature can also be described as engaging, extremely well-written, and finely paced novel. It's not quite as perfect as The Dry, but, then, Harper set her own bar so high with her first novel. Certainly Force of Nature is worth reading and held my rapt attention to the perfect ending.  4.5

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Flatiron Books.
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A compelling mystery set in the Australian bush on a corporate retreat that ends in murder. Great characters, and a lot of Australia specific detail. Recommended for those who like mystery and stories set in unique landscapes.
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A combination of office politics, deceit and struggles in raw nature. More psychology than adventure .
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