Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Welcome to my stop on the Force of Nature blog tour! Before I jump into my post, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the folks at Little, Brown for allowing me to get involved and for giving me early access to a copy of Force of Nature.
Force of Nature is the second novel by Jane Harper, author of The Dry. If you haven’t heard of The Dry I’ll be surprised: it was one of the biggest debuts of last year, and since its release has sold over 200,000 copies in the UK alone. It also became a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller and was Top Ten in Ireland and a Number One Bestseller in Australia.
What’s the sequel, Force of Nature, about?
Where did Alice Russell go?
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 pack 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.
The Dry was one of the best books I read last year, so my expectations for Force of Nature were higher than normal. The focus is vastly different: rather than the crime being what appears to be a murder-suicide, Alice Russell’s disappearance is surrounded by uncertainty and intrigue.
Is Alice still alive? Has she been kidnapped? Or is she simply lost?
What did I think of Force of Nature?
Unsurprisingly, I gave it five stars. I was torn, because The Dry is better than Force of Nature, but only marginally. I’m not going to give any spoilers, so it’s difficult to say exactly why I liked this book so much, but it’s for many of the same reasons that I loved The Dry.
The Australian setting is still a character of its own, but compared to the drought in the first novel, Force of Nature is filled with water. It rains almost constantly, increasing the difficulty of the terrain and making the search for Alice near futile. Harper’s skill at describing weather conditions still astounds me: I was genuinely shivering at points throughout the novel, even though I was curled up in my pyjamas under a blanket!
Jumping between Falk’s investigation and the events unfolding on the disastrous hike, it takes a little while to get into the flow of Force of Nature, but the non-chronological narrative is gripping (particularly towards the end, when the chapters get shorter and the pace dramatically increases).
We get to know the other girls in Alice’s hiking group – Jill, Lauren, Beth and Bree – through the flashback chapters and through Falk’s encounters with them, and it’s easy to swing from suspecting someone to thinking they had nothing to do with it within the space of a couple of sentences. It helps that there’s a large cast of background characters who look as though they might become relevant to the investigation – it’s up to you to decide who to suspect, and why!
When Alice’s fate is eventually revealed, it’s a big surprise. I had an idea of what was going to happen, but didn’t manage to guess all of it. If you figure out exactly what’s going to happen before Harper reveals it, I’ll be shocked.
If you’re a fan of crime novels that aren’t too technical, focusing more on the plot than on the investigative techniques themselves, you’ll love Force of Nature. You’ll also adore it if you’re interested in Australia, and the way that the wildness of the outback can have a psychological impact as well as a physical one. I’m seriously hoping that Harper will write another book following Falk: no details of a potential third installment have been revealed yet, but I’m crossing my fingers that there will be some news soon.
About the author:
Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s second novel.
I hope you enjoyed this stop on the Force of Nature blog tour!
Have you read The Dry yet, or is it still on your TBR?