Force Of Nature – Jane Harper (2017)

Australian-based author Jane Harper made a surprising huge splash with her 2016 debut “The Dry” (see what I did there?) which scooped Crime Book Of The Year awards in Australia and over here.  It introduced financial crime expert Aaron Falk, although it took him very much out of his professional comfort zone, as he returned to his small home town and became embroiled in a murder-suicide case involving a close friend.  I really appreciated the author’s handling of this whodunnit with the additional tensions of a community in crisis intensified by severe drought.  A 2020 film adaptation wasn’t as good as the book, as it was just a little bit, for want of a better word, dry.

The author has gone on to continued acclaim and commercial success with five published novels to date.  This is the second of three to feature Aaron Falk.  It has a different feel, is more standard thriller fare, and for me does not work as well.  A team bonding exercise for a family-run company BaileyTennants in the hostile Giralang Ranges goes wrong when of a group of five women only four return.  It just so happens that Aaron Falk is investigating the company for financial wrongdoings and his main contact within the company is the missing woman, so he together with new partner, Carmen, get very involved, although I’m not sure why they needed to be at the site where the woman went missing nor did I fully understand what they were investigating and what they needed from her.

Their narrative and the search is interspersed with the events of the hike that went wrong and I did get a little frustrated with the structure of working up to something exciting and then switching to the other narrative strand. Falk felt a little tacked on in this occasion and I think the book could have worked just as well as a stand-alone.  There was also the issue that I did not care that much about the BaileysTennants management and the employees undertaking the team building.  Midway through we move away from the intensity of the ranges to allow a sub-plot to develop and it was here I felt myself getting more involved and I took that with me when we returned to the search for the missing woman.  I did want to know what happened and there were twists I did not anticipate but after the impact “The Dry” made this felt more like standard genre fiction which was fun to read but unlikely to make that much of a lasting impression.  

Force Of Nature was published in 2018 by Little, Brown.  I read the Abacus paperback edition.