Force of Nature

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Jane Harper’s follow up to her wildly successful debut, The Dry, leaves a bit to be desired.  The format is similar, flip flopping back and forth in time so the reader can find out what actually happened. However, Force of Nature never quite seems to get going. It’s slow in the buildup which doesn’t offer the satisfaction expected. The characters are not very compelling and nothing drives the reader to invest in any of them. Hopefully, the third time will be a charm.
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The story basically centers around two groups (a men's and a women's) employed by the same company who're sent on a professional team building retreat. The retreat consists of 3 days and nights of hiking and camping in a fairly remote wooded range in Australia. We find out right away that only 4 of the women return and when they do they are hours late and look much worse for the wear. So, the immediate question is...what's happened to Alice?  Regarding the plot, the narrative structure, and the characters involved there honestly wasn't that much that worked for me and it's disappointing because I expected to love this.

What worked...

The descriptive details for the setting. Jane Harper can write wonderful setting details. While I didn't find this to be as atmospheric as The Dry, I did feel like I was there in the woods with the cold and rain and darkness
The short chapters created a very fast reading pace and I was able to read this in one sitting
Aaron Falk. There's something about this character that I really like. He's somewhat of an enigma but just seems like a really good guy. I just wish the author would've done more with him in this story. To me, it seemed like he was an after thought and his character didn't seem to evolve too much in this book.
What didn't work....

The entire plot premise that a professional team building company would send inexperienced hikers out with no phones, no walkie talkies, no flares, no emergency provisions whatsoever and then never check to ensure they reached each campsite just made no sense to me and tarnished my ability to believe the story.
The characters. I felt the group of women were not only unlikeable but also thinly drawn. There were times I couldn't remember who was who, they didn't seem to be all that individualistic. And I found hard to care about any of them
The structure of the narrative. The story is told in present time from Aaron's perspective as they are investigating and alternates with flashbacks of each day of the women's journey. This seemed odd to me because we already know what happens so it often seemed unnecessary to retell some parts. For me, opening the book with the ending took away quite a bit of suspense.
The mystery. I found it to be pretty underwhelming and the red herrings were too obvious in my opinion.
Unfortunately, there was more that didn't work for me than did in this story and I'm bummed about that because I think Jane Harper is a very talented writer. Maybe it was a case of rushing the second book as others have speculated, I'm not sure. I did enjoy seeing a little spark with Aaron at the end and I will definitely still give the next book in the series a try because I want to see what she does with Aaron's character moving forward.
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While I greatly enjoyed "The Dry" (Harper's preceeding novel), "Force of Nature" one ups it IMO. 

A corporate team building event, a three day survival hike in the wilderness of the Giralong Ranges, goes completely awry when 10 employees venture out but one less returns. Not only does this event cause the involvement of the local authorities and park rangers, but also the Federal Police as the missing woman is an informant on an ongoing investigation into the company of employ to all of these people.

The investigation takes the story on many twists and turns and keeps the level of interest at its peak during the entirety. From suggestions of a work cover-up to a group dynamic gone wrong or was it even as simple as she left the group to give it a go alone and didn't make it out? Could it even be the work of historically renowned and still unaccounted for serial killer, Martin Kovac? All of these legitimate explanations and more are examined by Falk, the investigator extraordinaire, and his partner in a way that makes you want to turn the pages more quickly each chapter. A great read!
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When Detective Aaron Falk learns that an informant went missing during a corporate team building exercise in the bush, he looks at his phone and realizes that she tried to call him in the middle of the night. What happened to Alice and does it relate to the case Falk is working on? Author Harper once again builds a multi-level mystery set in a remote wilderness area of Australia, slowly ratcheting up the tension and making it nearly impossible to put down. Highly recommended.
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She is a marvel, and the latest novel proves that THE DRY wasn’t a fluke, Jane Harper is here to stay, and how fantastic that is.  The action sizzles and the characters are vibrant with petty jealousies that light up the page.  Another best seller indeed, and I’m happy to spread the word near and far.
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Even better than the first! I enjoyed the continued character development and look forward to more from this author.
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Last year, I read Jane Harper’s debut novel, the thriller The Dry, which introduced Australian Federal Agent Aaron Falk. I LOVED it, so I jumped at the chance to read the second novel featuring Agent Harper, Force of Nature (thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley) prior to publication in return for my honest review. 

In this second installment in the series, Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen are called to the Giralang Range, because a woman is missing.  A corporate team building trip, with five men hiking in one direction and five women going another way goes awry. The two groups were supposed to meet up after three days in the wild, but something has gone wrong. 

The story progresses, following the police, the search party, and Aaron as they investigate and search for the missing woman. This progress is related in chapters alternating with the story as told by the other women who were on the trip. There was so much going on behind the scenes, with tons of secrets, corporate intrigue, grudges and jealousy, so there is a ton of material for Aaron to unravel. 

LOTS of suspense, and vivid descriptions of gorgeous scenery and interesting characters. While The Dry focused more on Aaron’s own personal story, Force of Nature continues to reveal details about his past.  

While there is violence, there is no gore. I love this writer and this series, and eagerly await the next one from Jane Harper. Five stars.
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This is clearly my kind of book! Five women on a company "retreat" in the mountains and only four return. Each version of the truth is a little different. Told in alternating chapters from the days the women are gone and the detectives trying to solve the mystery, the novel draws you in from the beginning as we begin to see how outward personas do not always reflect the inner character of people whom we believe are trustworthy. Although I haven't read Harper's debut novel, now I will certainly go back to read it; this one moves quickly but keeps you in enough suspense to not want to put down until the end!
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Enjoyable mystery with a bit of romance. It's a solid book.
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No sophomore slump here! Whew! So glad Aaron is back and this story is a real treat.  The character of Alice came *this* close to getting on my nerves a few times but I think that was intentional and overall I devoured every page. The set-up of a corporate retreat gone bad is super intriguing and, of course, in Jane Harper's deft hands, the story is gorgeously woven with complex threads. Harper also does a phenomenal job with the setting and through the use of descriptive details lightly peppered throughout the story made me feel as though I was there.  It's time for book 3 - I can't wait.
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Five women head into the Australian wilderness on a corporate retreat. When only four make it out, a search begins for the fifth. But Alice Russell wasn’t just any employee, she was a whistleblower about to deliver documents to Aaron Falk (from The Dry) and his new partner that would bring down the company. Like The Dry, this was a fast-paced and engrossing mystery in which the Australian bush plays a starring role.
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I adored Jane Harper's debut The Dry, and our protagonist Aaron Falk is back for a second installment in Force of Nature. This time, he and his new partner are working with soon-to-be whistleblower Alice Russell on a case involving the company she works for. Just as they are about to receive the vital information from Alice, she disappears in the rugged and unforgiving Giralang Ranges while on a corporate retreat with her coworkers.
As in The Dry, the tale bounces back and forth between Falk and the current investigation into what happened to Alice Russell and the events of the women on the retreat in the days leading up to Alice's disappearance. Like The Dry, there is a LOT of history between the characters, so many things that could have gone wrong, and so many people who may be responsible. Unlike The Dry, I found this denouement a little unsatisfying. There was a little too much going on, and some of the characterizations didn't seem fully formed to me, so I had trouble distinguishing between a couple of the characters. Also, I cannot even decide if this story is truly a mystery, as I don't believe we were given all the clues to solve the case on our own, although I could be mistaken. This was TRULY an uncorrected proof, and many times there were whole paragraphs without spaces between the words, making it really difficult to read so I may have missed some clues.
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Agent Falk is definitely my book boyfriend!  I loved THE DRY and this was a satisfying follow up!   I hope this isn't the last visit with these characters!
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I was so happy to receive an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved The Dry and was really looking forward to this second in Jane Harper's Aaron Falk series. It was quite different, not as personally involved with Falk, but still a very well written mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end. Harper writes with great insight to the human spirit and what makes us all tick. I'll be looking forward to more in this series to come.
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A corporate retreat in the wilderness to learn how to work together- 2 teams, 5 women and 5 men. First team to return wins.
The weather conditions were horrible, tensions were high. People were hungry, cold and tired. The men finished first. When the women finally arrived, there were only four of them. Alice wasn’t with them. What happened to Alice? None of them seems to know. What comes out is all the fighting among them, as they had gotten lost.
Aaron Falk is involved because he is investigating the company who hosted the retreat and Alice is an inside mole trying to get him documents to prove guilt. Is that why she disappeared? Or did she just run away?
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I really enjoyed “The Dry” by Jane Harper, loving the protagonist Aaron Falk and the great mystery in that book. I was really excited to read “Force of Nature”.

I was glad to see that the author chose to set this book in the bushlands of Giralang Range, I never knew how incredibly dense these areas were. The premise isn’t a new one, however, as I’ve read two books in the last year where women were fighting against the elements, the most recent “The River at Night” by Erica Ferencik. 

What I liked about the book:  Aaron and his partner Carmen. The two personalities are different and yet they offset each other very nicely. They are Federal Police Agents called in to help the local police when one of five women fail to return after a team building expedition into the bushlands. The women in the group are quite well described, although I found them a little unbelievable since there didn’t seem to be a true leader or sincerely nice team player among them. Hovering over the investigation is the history of a serial killer from a decade before whose last victim was never found. I thought the descriptions of everything along the trail very atmospheric and beautifully described. Ms. Harper presented the area in ways that it could be quite beautiful, the waterfalls, the morning sunset from the top of a hill, and also terrorizing in it’s almost impenetrable dense vegetation and complete darkness at night.

Things that I didn’t like: The idea that any group would be sent off without cell phone coverage or any way of communicating if they were in danger, I don’t think this would ever happen in real life. There were mysteries here and some subplots but I didn’t feel the thrill that I did in her first book. Alice, the woman who is missing, also is a “whistleblower” and has been working with the police before the team challenge. I really like to have believable characters and the fact that so many people were lying in the end, just didn’t seem plausible. The ending was also a bit of a disappointment after the incredible build up all of the way through the book.


So why am I giving this book a 4* rating? Because Ms. Harper’s writing is precise, beautifully thought out and descriptive. The story flowed well and it kept me turning pages.  I also really enjoy Aaron Falk and Carmen and am looking forward to his next investigation/adventure which is hinted about at the end of the book. All in all this is a good read and I think most people will enjoy it. This for me was a 3.5 rounded up to a 4.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher and NetGalley.

Will also post to Amazon upon publication, thank you.
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With The Dry, Jane Harper showed great potential to be a major author of the mystery genre.  With Force of Nature she has firmly established herself as a master.  Aaron Falk returns in this second book of the series to "get the contracts" that one of the five women on their company's team-building outing in the bush country of Australia is "leaking" to Falk and his partner in the financial division Carmen.  Harper provides us with a multi-layered story painted with near-lyrical language and populated by wholly-formed characters.  Told in alternating scenes of the three-day journey and the search for the one who went missing, Force of Nature carefully builds the web of mysteries, providing the solution after we think we know what happened and why.  I cannot wait for Harper's next book in this series, which is worthy of comparison with Louise Penny's wonderful series.
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I loved her thriller, The Dry, for a first novel it was fantastic. Actually would have been fantastic even if it wasn't her first, but even more so since it was. Excited to read this, her second, and I'll just say that the infamous sophomore slump is not in evidence. This time Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen are called to the Giralang Range, where a woman is missing. A team building trip, men go one way, five men go another, all to meet up at the end of three days. According to the outfit managing the trip, it should have been simple, so what went wrong?

We follow the investigation, with the police, the searchers and Falk, alternating with daily missives from the women who were on the trip. So much going on behind the scenes, secrets, jealousy, grudges, but what happened and when? Quite suspenseful, and terrifying at times. Not graphic at all, just wonderful writing that shows, not just tells. Very atmospheric, the descriptions of the scenery were very vivid. Though this does not have the same personal connection to Falk as her first, there is still some introspective musings about his past that this location evokes. There are layers upon layers, misdirections, and everytime something new is discovered, there is still more waiting.

Harper does a fantastic job in building her stories, they build gradually, and at the same time they are understated until the denoument. No big gory, or shocking scenes, just good storytelling done right. I enjoy this series immensely, and now eagerly await the next.

ARC from Flatiron books.
Publishes February 6, 2018.
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