Force of Nature

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

A corporate retreat meant to exercise team-building skills and personal development goes sideways in a hurry.  Five ladies strap on their backpacks and trudge into the cold and muddy terrain of the Australian outback.  They are a motley crew made up of senior staff members, a data clerk, an office assistant administrative coordinator (Ahem!  Office-speak, gotta get it right!), etc.  Ongoing grudges and underlying resentments roil just beneath the surface.  One of these women will not be returning with the others at trail's end.

The parallels that run throughout this novel are right on the money.  An easy read and decent mystery, with just a wee peep at the not-so-pretty underpinnings of the corporate world.
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FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper is her second Aaron Falk mystery, primarily set in a rural, backwoods area a few hours from Melbourne, Australia. There, Executive Adventures has organized a nature survival experience for several corporate employees. The mystery? Five women begin the hike and only four, injured and late, arrive at the rendezvous point a few days later. Harper does an excellent job of building suspense and a feeling of very grave danger. Her story is complex – involving past kidnappings and a serial killer in the area, corporate misdeeds and financial secrets, and family dynamics. Using flashbacks, she gradually reveals the events that occurred when the women (Jill, twins Bree and Beth, Lauren and Alice) were in the wild. Those are interspersed with the ongoing investigation of Falk, his partner and local law enforcement. Although scary and unnerving at times, I found myself looking forward to reading FORCE OF NATURE and finished it in just a day or two. This title received a starred review from Booklist and I highly recommended it. Look also for The Dry which is Harper’s much-acclaimed previous bestseller and the first in this series.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Flatiron Books, and Jane Harper for the opportunity to read and review this book - amazing!  I'm so sad that I didn't read the first in this series - The Dry - I'm definitely going back to read it now!  However, you don't have to have read that book to get every bit of enjoyment you can out of Force of Nature.  It's definitely a stand-alone book on its own merit.

5 women and 5 women go on a corporate retreat to the wilds of Australia for 5 days.  At the end of the time period, all of the men are awaiting the women's return.  Hours later, only 4 women emerge from the woods.  Each of the survivors tells their version of events but are they being truthful?  What really happened while they were lost in the woods?  

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk, along with his partner Carmen, are called in to help investigate the woman's disappearance.  Could it have anything to do with a case they are working on that one of the women was helping with?  

The story is told in alternating time periods - the current investigation and the 5 days of the women's adventure into the wilderness.  This was so effective because we see the tension between the women and learn parts of each of their stories at the same time that the investigation is looking into these women.

Highly recommended - a great read that I couldn't put down.  I can't wait for the next one in this series - bravo!
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Five Australian women head into the wilderness of the fictional Giralong Ranges on a corporate retreat; only four return after being lost and disoriented. Federal Agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper join in on the search for the missing woman because she was to supply them with insider information for an ongoing investigation of the women's firm.  Added to the danger is the fact that Giralong Ranges was the past locale of a serial killer whose son might still be on the loose. 

The action moves back and forth between the retelling of what occurred on the hike and the search. The backgrounds and complex interrelationships among the five women are revealed, as well as insight into the character of Falk.  

Harper is an excellent storyteller, revealing one layer at a time. She is evocative in her depiction of the harsh desolation and danger of the back country.  The suspense builds, the resolution not so obvious.   

This is the second in a series about Aaron Falk. I did not read the first one, but don’t feel that took away from my enjoyment of this page turner.  I recommend it.
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Wow!!  This was a rollercoaster of a ride that kept me completely entertained from start to finish.  I felt that I read it at warp speed so that I could get through to the end!  I need to go back and re-read it to soak up all the delishness that was this book.  The descriptions of the landscape and locations was perfect.  The character development was rich and yet still authentic and real to the reader. So many twists and turns.  I very much enjoy reading this author and will be glad to read more by her!
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In 2016, Jane Harper presented us with The Dry, which many of us counted among our favorite reads of last year. Now, she’s at it again with her follow-up novel in the Aaron Falk series, Force of Nature. In the debut novel, Falk was home in the rural town of Kiewarra, Australia, for a funeral in the midst of a terrible drought and got caught up in the midst of a murder investigation. This time around, he and his new partner, Carmen Cooper, go searching for a missing woman who has been feeding them information in a money- laundering scheme that they’ve been investigating as financial agents in the Australian Federal Police force.

Alice Russell is one of five women on a wilderness retreat in the Giralang Ranges as part of a team-building exercise for their company. There is a men’s group also, but except for the first night, there is no contact with the men, as they are on a separate trail. The women include sisters Beth and Bree McKenzie; an old school chum – or at least, acquaintance, of Alice, Lauren Shaw; and finally, Jill Bailey, daughter of the company’s owner and now one of the head honchos. Her brother David is with the men’s group but showed up late. His story seems to change a couple of times. This happens with all of our hikers, as we learn throughout this story.

Unlike the first book, which almost had me feeling parched and hot, this story made me want to reach for towels extra layers of clothing, and a steeping mug of tea. It seems to be always raining, or at least damp and chilly. This adds to the eerie sense of uneasiness that I felt throughout the entire story. From the onset, we know that five women set out on the weekend trek. Only four return.

Jane Harper nimbly switches between scenes of the campers’ misadventures while they struggle to follow the trail and then back to Falk and Cooper as they join the state police to search for the missing woman. In the process, we get the distinct impression that the group of five is a not-so-tightly knit bitch club. Even on the first night, the strain is evident, but as the difficulties begin to mount, personality flaws emerge and tempers flare. No one, especially Alice, would be a candidate for a “works well with others” award. On the AFP side of things, Aaron’s trip to Giralang brings with it memorabilia he has found from his father’s hiking days and opens the door a crack for Carmen to pose some personal questions. These types of questions have a broader reach that is central to the book’s theme: How strong is the bond between parents and children or even between siblings. What would any parent do to protect a child? How strong is family loyalty? How much can be forgiven? When it comes to parenting, we see examples of teenagers in difficult situations, perhaps of their own doing. Could their parents have done more? Is it nature or nurture? 

The chapters alternate, giving an inside look at what occurs when the map is misread or when arguments break out, and as our police investigators ponder the disappearance of their mole, feeling the pressure of their bosses get the contracts, when all they have to go on is a scant, broken message, “help her.”  Each chapter ends at a tense moment, making it nearly impossible to stop reading. The BaileyTennants Company group is not your typical scout troop out for a weekend backpacking adventure. They could have had an enjoyable time, for the surroundings, particularly the falls, sound beautiful. However, once trouble starts, fear and panic set in. All they can think of are the dangers – the cold, the damp, lack of food and water, and the thing no one will say – the history of serial killer Martin Kovac. It was almost like reading a bedtime bogeyman story, with all the things that go bump in the night! 

I wish there had been more to like about these women. While I felt sorry for them in this situation and for their personal situations in their family lives and their pasts, I didn’t find anything that drew me to any of them, except their plight. I also found myself wishing that the author had mentioned just a little bit about Aaron Falk’s past as it related to his experience in The Dry. Perhaps it’s best, because Force of Nature really could be read as a standalone. We do get quite a bit of information about him, thanks to Carmen. At least we know of his regrets. What about Carmen? She is a minor character and seems quite likable, but I’d have liked to know her a bit better as well. The park with the gloomy weather is the perfect setting for something to go wrong, which begs the question, why were there no safeguards in place to ensure the participants’ safety? Granted, there were predetermined stops with provisions, but no one checked to see that they reached their appointed areas by nightfall. The author doesn’t include this buffer in her story.

Two things that I think the author does quite well are setting the tone with place and conditions. The park is in a wild, remote location without creature comforts. The weather is wet and dreary, which really sets the tone for the campers as well as the search party. The second thing I think Harper does quite well is she shows us how people respond under pressure. Each is under stress in daily life, and the situation on the retreat exacerbates it. For the group of women, the weekend together becomes a pressure cooker. We see that there are agitators and peacemakers and those who simply simmer under the surface. 

So, what happened to Alice? You won’t hear it from me!

Thanks to NetGalley, Flatiron Books and the author for the ARC copy of this wonderful book. The opinions stated are my own.

4.5 stars
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A team of men and five women enter a remote, rugged system of trails for a company team-building exercise. All of the men, but only four of the women come out. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk is investigating the woman's mysterious disappearance and his suspicions start to increase when the returning women's accounts of what happened don't add up.

"Force of Nature" is the much anticipated follow-up to Jane Harper's debut "The Dry." This book is well-written and suspenseful, although not as haunting as "The Dry." Aaron Falk returns in this new book, but it's not necessary to have read the first book prior to reading this one. The woman's disappearance could be tied into a large-scale money laundering case that Aaron and his partner, Carmen, are working on which adds to the suspense. 

There are lots of secrets in this book and the story is well-told through the use of flashbacks to relate the details of the outdoor adventure gone wrong, mixed with scene from the current search for Alice. The whole premise of employees being mandated to participate in such a dangerous outing seems unusual to me, but maybe it's more common in Australia. I like the setting and the main characters, as well as the supporting characters, are interesting and kept me invested in the outcome of the book. I enjoyed the book and can't wait for the next one by Harper.

I received this book from NetGalley, through the courtesy of Flatiron Books. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
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Jane Harper wrote THE best book I read in 2017. 

THE DRY deservedly won many prestigious awards and Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk won the hearts of readers around the world. 

When a debut work of fiction is nothing less than magnificent, the highly anticipated second novel looms large. Will it live up to the first? Is Harper a one trick pony? Do not fear, Dry fans!!! FORCE OF NATURE does not disappoint and will cement Harper as your go-to mystery/psychological suspense author. Bless!

Instead of the drought ridden Australian outback we got to know intimately in THE DRY, this book is set in the wet, cold and windy Giralang mountain range north of Melbourne. Let me tell you, when you turn that last page, you'll breathe a sigh of relief that you’re snugly wrapped in front of your fireplace and not out in the FORCE OF NATURE battling the elements.

Jane Harper is first and foremost a fabulous, effortless writer. I love her spare detailing, every word packs a punch. Nothing extraneous here. She also k n o w s people. What drives people, their fears, their downfalls. Her psychological skills are put to full use in FORCE OF NATURE.

Five women from the BaileyTennants financial firm are persuaded to take part in a back country team building exercise that will test their limits beyond imagination. The women have complicated relationships with each other, extending beyond their co-working status. When they emerge from the wilderness, one member of this not-so-happy group is missing.

Our beloved Aaron Falk is called in with his new partner, Carmen Cooper, to assist with the investigation. The story is told from two views, one from the running investigation and the other in a slowed down reality of exactly what happened on this hike into hell.

The result is an addictive, page-turning story rich in atmosphere, mood and setting. It is easily a standalone novel, but there is so much back story on Aaron Falk that a new reader would be greatly missing out by reading the two books out of order. There is ample biographical info on Falk’s personality traits and what makes him tick—all to be discovered in THE DRY. 

FORCE OF NATURE feels like a natural, organic follow-up to THE DRY. The premise of this book is brilliant, realistic and terrifically suspenseful.

Highly recommend!
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Aaron Falk is back home in the city. He and his partner, the lovely, (but unfortunately engaged) Carmen, are investigating the disappearance of a woman who vanished from a corporate team building wilderness trip. The women, on a different trail than the men, arrive back to camp disheveled and distraught, but no one seems particularly upset that Alice is gone. The novel is told in a series of flashbacks that slowly reveal each player’s role in the disappearance. Harper, in her second novel, is already a master at peeling away levels of story like she’s peeling an onion. Unlike a lot of thriller writers working today, she manages to maneuver pieces into place in a completely coherent way. No hanging plot lines--just good, clean writing with characters that could be your friends or neighbors. While not quite as compelling as The Dry, this is a worthy sophomore effort. Note to Ms. Harper, though… More Falk next time, please!
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I love the subtle elegance of Harper's writing. 

Force of Nature didn't have the magic of The Dry (at least for my reading experience), and I wish there had been more of Aaron Falk. However, this is still a worthy read! 

Five women take part in a corporate retreat in the Gralong Ranges. They are supposed to spend three days navigating a trail, camping, and teambuilding. However, only four of them return. How is this connected to Aaron Falk? The one woman who doesn’t make it back, Alice, was Falk’s informant on a money laundering case. He and his partner Carmen investigate her disappearance.

Similar to The Dry, the environment takes on a role of a character--this time around it's the unforgiving, brutal Giralong ranges which tests the survival skills of those who embark on its trails. 

Harper’s writing is the most compelling aspect of Force of Nature. Falk’s character is more developed than he was in The Dry, but I wanted more of him! His struggle to understand his relationship with his father felt very real. His loneliness emanates off the page. I am interested to see how his relationship with Carmen plays out. Force of Nature starts off a little slow, but the pace quickly picks up. I found the plot to be interesting, if a little unrealistic. I had extremely high expectations for this book and it did not disappoint! 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Jane Harper has written a brilliant sequel. Force of Nature is a tightly plotted, fast-paced mystery with an evocative setting that adds to the ambience of the story brilliantly. Aaron Falk is a refreshing mystery protagonist--a flawed, human investigator who tries his best but isn't plagued by the same old vices that grow tired in other mystery novels. The plot unfolds wonderfully, with excellent character growth from Aaron and a few satisfying twists for both the mystery at hand and Aaron's personal life. I can't wait to share this with patrons and readers, and I'll definitely be recommending it for those who're looking to fill the Tana French gap.
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I really enjoyed Jane Harper's first book in the Aaron Falk series and was eager to read the second book. It did not disappoint. Aaron is back again, this time assisting with an investigation of a woman who has gone missing during a corporate hiking retreat. The story unravels with alternating chapters..."current day" with Aaron's investigation, alongside the corporate hiking retreat starting from day 1. This created a building, foreboding tone. I enjoyed the character development, and found that this one had better pacing than book 2. I am looking forward to see where this series leads.
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Another great read from Jane Harper. I enjoyed The Dry but I think this one is even better. I flew through this book as the tension mounted. I really liked how the story was told in 2 timelines: 1) the aftermath leading with the detective work and 2) the actual weekend events as they unfolded for the women. The writing is fine but I love that the story grabbed me from the start...honestly, it grabbed me at the blurb. The blurb did not disappoint! The setting located in the Australian bush just added to the overall feel of the story and it's tension. 

The character of Aaron Falk is not overdone as I sometimes see in some of these types of stories. I'm completely thankful that the professional relationship with Aaron and his partner, Carmen, is not romantic and a distraction from thrills! Thank you, Jane! 

I will definitely be reading the next in the series...I'm hoping there is a next!

Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for the ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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When I received this ARC, I read her first book, The Dry, which I enjoyed greatly. This second book did not disappoint. I am not usually a fan of writing from different POV’s, but this was done so beautifully that I did not get confused at all, and enjoyed it. One woman goes missing on a corporate retreat in Australia and a suspected serial killer is on the loose, possibly in the same area.Thrills and suspense all the way!
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I loved this book. Jane Harper does it again with her second novel starring Agent Falk. I was thoroughly engaged and couldn't wait to find out what happened to Alice on her company "team building" excursion in the woods.  Excellent novel!
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I love when a synopsis doesn’t give too much away. It gives you just enough information to hook and bait you into wanting to read the book. The synopsis for this book does just that. All you really need to know is that five women, on a corporate retreat, headed out into the wilderness and only four of them came back. Hook, line, and sinker!

Aaron Falk is back with his new partner, Cameron Cooper. They work for the financial unit in Melbourne, in other words – they find the money. So why would they have an interest in finding the missing hiker? In an attempt to not include spoilers I will let you read the story to find out.

Once again, Jane Harper does a terrific job giving the reader a very rich book by using climate. The first book in this series, The Dry it was very hot and dry, aiding in creating a very intense story. In this book, Force of Nature it is cold, wet, and muddy. Holding true to the title, these women are up against nature in a very unpleasant environment adding to the extremely stressful and frustrating situation they are in.

I enjoyed the chapter layout. The first half of each chapter is focused on Falk and Cameron’s search for the missing hiker. The second half of the chapter follows the five women, starting with day one on their three-day wilderness retreat. This format works really well! I enjoyed watching the investigation getting closer and closer to what happened on the retreat, until both worlds finally collide. I found the last quarter of the book to be quite intense and I was very intrigued to find out what happened to the missing hiker.

I enjoyed this book, but I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters, so for that reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected to. I found all the women to be quite unlikeable to the point of being annoying at times. I do like Aaron Falk and his partner Cameron – when we got to know them on a more personal level these two characters started to come to life and I found them very likeable.

This mystery was alright, but I’m afraid it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me quite like the previous one in the series, The Dry.
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Force of Nature by Jane Harper is the second book in the Aaron Falk series.  I still haven't read The Dry and now am even more eager to.  

From the book description:  When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

The missing woman is Alice Russell, who has been helping Falk and Carmen Cooper with their financial investigation of BaileyTennants accountancy firm.  Falk has been pressured to get some contracts from Alice, and in turn, has pressured Alice.  He is worried and feeling that he may be responsible if her disappearance has anything to do with the investigation.

The setting in the bush land of the Giralang Ranges has to be considered a character for its inhospitable terrain and connection with a serial killer from twenty years ago.  But all of the characters come to life, especially the five women who get off lost in the bush, suffer accidents and loss of equipment, and whose personalities and histories begin to clash.

The story separates into two strands, the hikers in a day by day account, and the investigators whose search becomes more and more despairing.  The team-building purpose of the corporate retreat falls apart; secrets and hidden grudges surface as the women struggle through the hostile setting.  Even when four of the women manage to reach help, the question of what happened to Alice remains.  The force of nature is two-fold--that of the natural environment and of the personal natures of the five women.  Compelling reading. 

NetGalley/Flatiron Books

Mystery/Suspense.  Feb. 6, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.
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THE DRY is one of my favorite books in recent memory. I previously wrote that I didn't especially care for protagonist Aaron Falk, but found the story, particularly the central mystery and rural Australian setting, uttering compelling. 

So I was a little skeptical of a series centered on Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk. To my surprise, though, in FORCE OF NATURE I was less enthused by the mystery and cared more about Falk. My main issue with Falk was that he's mostly a blank slate, just there as the reader's lens into the story. But Falk's reticence was kind of the point, and in Book #2 Harper does a fine job opening him up more and adding layers to his personality (and accounting for his previous blank slatiness).

This book's mystery, the disappearance of Alice Russell during a corporate wilderness retreat, is still solid enough. Harper offers a revolving door of potential suspects and motives. The narrative flips between the investigation by Falk and his new partner, Carmen, and the events of the retreat leading right up to the crime. But the structure gets repetitive after a while, especially with the group dynamics during the retreat established early on. 

In THE DRY Harper, to great effect, focused mainly on Falk's investigation then unceremoniously shot us back in time to reveal snippets of the mystery. I feel like FORCE OF NATURE could have benefited from a similar approach to jar readers from a lulled pace.

But overall Harper clearly shows THE DRY was no fluke. Along with a well-crafted mystery she once again creates a vivid sense of place. And with Falk emerging as a more interesting character, this series shows tons of promise.
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Let me start out by saying I really enjoyed this book.  I was about 25% of the way through the book before realizing it was book #2 in a series.  While it was great as a stand-alone, there was a back story that was not explained to those of us who had not read book #1.  I understand an author cannot recap an entire book, but I felt confused most of the book why Falk's hand was burned.  One line explaining that would have been helpful to me as the author referenced his hand many times throughout the book. I will definitely go back and read book #1.  The way Jane Harper writes is easy and enjoyable to read.  Thank you for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Really enjoyed this!  It pretty much reads like a standalone; I don't think you need to have read The Dry to follow the plot of this one. The hiking scenes were pretty tense and I kept telling myself just one more chapter...then I finished in a day!
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