FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper

Force of NatureA corporate retreat is organized by a financial organization to encourage the bonding among colleagues. The two teams, five women and five men, will have to spend three days in the Australian bushland hiking and camping. But at the end of the three days, only the men have managed to turn up at the meeting point. After a few hours of waiting, four of the five women finally appear, scratched and injured, but one is still missing. Federal Agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper of the Melbourne Financial Investigations Unit take part in the investigation because the missing woman, Alice Russell, was collecting information for them about the organization she works for which they suspected of financial fraud. Is Alice’s disappearance linked to the work she was doing for them? Or it has to do with the Australian setting, once the hunting ground of a serial killer?

I haven’t read Jane Harper’s first novel, The Dry, which first features Federal Agent Aaron Falk, but after reading FORCE OF NATURE, I plan to catch up. Aaron Falk is an interesting character, with a complicated past that still haunts him and to which he refers a few times throughout the novel: growing up in a farm and then leaving it for the big city, his difficult relationship with his father, and his intricate love life.

The narration alternates between the past and the present, between the first day of camping, the women’s struggle to survive in the wilderness and the events that lead to Alice’s disappearance, and the police’s investigation and their search for Alice.

One of the main theme of this novel is the relationship between parents and children and the lengths parents would go to protect their own children. This is also a provocative novel about families, old rivalries and jealousies, and bullying.

The detailed and rich descriptions transport the reader right into the Australian wilderness that look like the perfect setting of a horror movie. The author’s writing and the suspense running high through the pages make this an unputdownable and compelling novel!

FORCE OF NATURE is out in the UK in February 8th.

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