Publication : Little, Brown on 8 Feb. 2018
FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…
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 pick 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.
Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.
Set in the Giralang Ranges beyond Melbourne this is the story of how a group of women from the same company set out to walk the Mirror Trail as part of a team building exercise. This is the area where notorious serial killer Martin Kovac operated. Though he died in jail, never confessing to his crimes, there is speculation as to the whereabouts of his son, who has not been seen since his father was imprisoned.
Alice has disappeared. The same Alice who was helping Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen as they investigate financial fraud and money laundering in her company. Aaron is really concerned that this may be why she has gone missing.
From the outset, Jane Harper offers a very real and vivid sense of place. Her descriptive prose is beautifully wrought and it is as if you are experience the isolation, cold and damp while you stumble around in the semi darkness hoping to heavens you are avoiding the snakes.
This is intelligent, articulate writing that grasps your interest and holds it tight as you learn more of the backgrounds of each of these women; their families and their inter-relationships.
Force of Nature expertly handles the dual timeline of past and present and slowly peels back the layers of secrets and lies leading up to the adventure weekend, uncovering relationships, stripping away the veneer of sophistication and bringing an authenticity to the story that makes the reader feel as if they really know and understand these individuals. Jane Harper is a consummate storyteller who weaves the timelines together to provide a chilling and thrilling insight into the events leading to Alice’s disappearance.
Force of Nature has pace and drive and yet takes its time establishing characters so that you get a rounded sense of who everyone is and what their stories are. Harper writes her characters with psychological insight, offering the reader glimpses into complex minds and past histories, establishing an authentic base for what happens when things go awry and tempers start to fray.
As the search for Alice heightens, she brings home a satisfying and thought through conclusion and one which further develops the character of the main protagonist, Aaron Falk.
A well-written, intelligent book that I very much enjoyed.
About Jane Harper
Jane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.
She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.
Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.
On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.
Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.
She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.
In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.
That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for an online 12-week novel writing course.
She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.
Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.
Find out more on Jane’s website
Follow Jane on @JaneHarperAutho