Force of Nature is an interesting psychological thriller based around familial and work relationships and the feelings, slights and resentments that can result. The basic facts are that five women (2 of whom are sisters, 2 of whom went to school together and all of whom work together at a private financial services firm) go on a 3-day hike in a remote national park and one of them (the pretty, obnoxious, “most successful” one) doesn’t make it out (alive). Overall rating: 3.5 Stars.
Force of Nature is the second book by Australian author Jane Harper featuring Aaron Falk, an officer of the Australian Federal Police (I guess the Aussie version of the United States’ FBI) specializing in financial crimes. Harper's first book, The Dry, was a sensation, and ended up winning the prestigious Gold Dagger award from the Crime Writers of America. It tells the story of what happens when Aaron goes back to his hometown after his childhood best friend’s entire family is gunned down in a deserted town in the middle of nowhere.
In my opinion, Force of Nature is a more interesting book than The Dry, but that’s not because of Aaron Falk, it’s due to the power of the mystery and suspense of the central question of “what happened between these women in the park?” It turns out that Alice Russell, the woman who does not make it out of the park with her co-workers, was acting as a confidential informer to Aaron and the AFP as they tried to build a substantial money laundering case against the employer of the women on the hike. Aaron and his partner go up to the park when news reaches them that Alice is missing to try and see if they can discover if her disappearance is linked to their investigation of her bosses. It turns out that the reason for her death is something much closer to home.
To me, there’s a fundamental flaw in Harper’s choice of protagonist for her mystery series. Falk is simply not that interesting a character. He’s almost nondescript. It’s really a testament to Harper’s writing and plotting that both books she has written so far, especially the second one, are captivating thrillers. Part of this is the exotic nature of their setting (Down Under) where in both books Harper takes full advantage of the lay of the land to enthrall the reader. I hope that the author takes a page out of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books and considers having other main characters in subsequent books. Or she could keep on using Falk as the ostensible protagonist of the books but then also depict the other characters in a more compelling and complex way as she does in Force of Nature.
Title: Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2).
Author: Jane Harper.
Paperback: 272 pages.
Publisher: Flatiron Books.
Date Published: February 26, 2018.
Date Read: June 29, 2018.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★☆ (4.0/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).