Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas
Crime Mystery set in Australia (Alice Russell is missing)
7th February 2018
Force of Nature by Jane Harper, crime mystery set in Australia.
We came across Jane Harper early 2017 when we read The Dry and back then we flagged it as ‘one to watch in 2017’. As it was, it achieved numerous accolades:
- Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger
- Waterstones Crime Thriller of the Month June and July 2017
- Sunday Times Crime Book of the month
- Radio 4 Book at Bedtime (September 2017)
- and many more…..
So it was with great anticipation and interest that I picked up her second novel, Force of Nature, once again featuring Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk. It can certainly be read as a standalone.
The company BaileyTennant has arranged a team-building weekend, men in one group, women in another, where each group has to make its way through the Bush in the fictional Giralang Ranges outside Melbourne, hiking from point-to-point on the Mirror Falls Trail. The setting from the outset is hostile, with muddy overgrown paths and gum trees in an arching and interlocking canopy, largely blocking the available light. The groups are, however, in the competent and experienced hands of Executive Trails who have marked the relevant routes with flags which each group has to collect as the participants move forward each day.
The focus is on the women and on the first evening they rendezvous at the designated camp, but already personality clashes amongst the five participants start to bubble. The men drop in unexpectedly too. Alice Russell is one of the team members, a redoubtable woman with a sharp and critical eye. It is she who goes missing, which we know early on in the book, and the rhythm of alternate chapters follows the women’s progress over four days, and the police search that ensues..
Aaron Falk (his first outing was in The Dry) becomes involved because Alice has been helping with an investigation he has been running, financial irregularities have been spotted at the company, and here is already one possible reason for Alice to go missing. The author, however, is adept at sliding in further storylines to flesh our the narrative – personality clashes, backstories that might be relevant, all guiding the reader this way and that.
Several years ago 4 women went missing in the area and the perpetrator Martin Kovac was gaoled. But his son, Sam, is still at large and may be part of the equation in the investigation of the missing woman.
The atmosphere as the trek progresses is cloyingly tangible….The women press on relentless through the hostile and ever more oppressive environment, struggling with the trials of navigation and errors they are making. I took 24 hours off in the middle of reading for a break, it felt that immediate! I then resumed reading the rest of the book. It has the pace of a slow but well-oiled engine that ploughs doggedly onwards taking the reader on an exploration of people’s characters and motivations, characters in close proximity in difficult and very challenging circumstances.
What has become of Alice Russell? Has she simply stumbled off into the unknown, to be found alive and well? Might she be dead? But ringing in Aaron Russell’s ears throughout are the words “Find the belongings or shelter, and the body’s always next“. The hours are passing, the pressure is on, tick tock…
“The bush seemed be the kind of place that kept secrets well“… and so does the author, she keeps her secrets right up to the very end.
I am positive that Force of Nature will be a real success in 2018.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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