Force of Nature is not only the title of Jane Harper’s second novel, but is also an apt description of the author herself. As it was released in country after country, Harper’s debut –The Dry – caused a seismic shift in the crime fiction landscape, collecting accolades and awards at each stop on its journey. Force of Nature once again features Agent Aaron Falk and not only echoes the quality of The Dry, but in some areas even exceeds it.
As fans know, Aaron Falk is a forensic accountant and when Force of Nature begins he is just about to close an investigation into the financial crimes of BaileyTennants – an Australian accounting firm. Just three pages into the novel, Falk discovers that his key informant, Alice Russell, has gone missing in the Giralang mountain ranges.
Days earlier, the employees of BaileyTennants went on a corporate teambuilding excursion into the Giralang Ranges. Dividing up by gender, the five women set out to begin their three-day hiking trip. Eventually, the women emerged from the dense foliage after missing their scheduled rendezvous time and destination – the only problem being that Alice was no longer with the group and no one seems willing to explain why.
What follows is a dual narrative in which each chapter is divided into two parts. The first section of each chapter takes place in the present and details the direct investigation into Alice’s disappearance. The second part of each chapter documents the events of the corporate hike itself – in chronological order. Readers are clued in to the dynamics between these women in both sections and Jane Harper does an excellent job of balancing the reveals across these two timelines. In a clever bit of manipulation, Jane Harper shortens the hiking sections as events near the climax, thereby forcing the reader to keep turning the pages quicker to find out exactly what happened to Alice.
Matters are complicated by the fact that this portion of the Giralang Ranges was previously the scene of a horrific series of crimes. While it is thought that this matter was mostly solved years ago, there were a few loose ends that may or may not be intertwined with this current missing persons case. Everyone on the team has the sense that time is running out if Alice is going to be found alive.
In Force of Nature, Jane Harper gives Aaron a new partner – Carmen Cooper. Carmen is every bit the equal of Aaron Falk in terms of characters readers will connect with. Aaron was already a protagonist fans were ready to follow to the ends of the Earth, but his interactions with Carmen are electrifying and it would be difficult to imagine a more perfect pairing to have as guides through this compelling tale.
Force of Nature, like The Dry, weaves a spell over the reader. Jane Harper has a gift for making the reader feel as though they are right there in amongst the action – whether it be at the top of the Mirror Falls overlooking the beautiful water below or within a secluded and dilapidated cabin long hidden within the overgrown forest. The voices of various characters ring authentic to the ear and make keeping this relatively large cast of characters organized in reader’s minds.
With only two novels published, Jane Harper has alighted herself at the very forefront of the crime fiction world. Fans will be clamoring for new work from this extremely talented author for many years to come.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.