Thursday, 11 January 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The first mystery novel featuring detective Aaron Falk, The Dry, took the world by storm, winning for author Jane Harper a CWA Golden Dagger Award. Soon after, she’s back with the second in the series, Force of Nature. This time it’s a missing person’s case set in a mountainous bush area in Victoria, during winter, wet and cold – so unlike the hot, relentless drought of The Dry.

Falk and fellow financial crime investigator, Carmen Cooper, are following a case of money laundering and have their sights set on corporate whistle blower, Alice Russell, to help them close the case. The only trouble is Alice has gone missing during an adventure retreat with her colleagues and bosses, an exercise in team-building. Four women of the group return battered, cold and hungry, without Alice and with no idea of her whereabouts.

The story see-saws from Falk and Carmen’s investigation and the slow turn of events from the women’s point of view as what started out as a challenging few days of working together, soon turned to disaster. The four women all have difficult relationships with Alice. Her boss, Jill, is an easy suspect, part of the family business and connected to the corruption. Lauren has known Alice since school yet they are oddly distant. Twins Bree and Beth have an uneasy relationship, Bree a career girl, while Beth shows signs of addiction and has a prison record.

The difficult terrain also holds secrets, once the stamping ground of serial murderer, Martin Kovak. Could a copycat killer be at large?

Jane Harper works the edgy interactions of the five women to create plenty of tension - each is desperate in her own way and with a well-developed backstory. She’s also great on setting: the claustrophobia of dense bush, the lurking fauna that can so easily sting or bite. Meanwhile Falk is still hampered emotionally by his past, particularly his guilt over his father, which adds interest and offers more development in future books.

Overall, there is perhaps not quite the edge-of-seat drama of The Dry in Falk’s second outing, but Force of Nature is still a good solid whodunit that won’t disappoint.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Force of Nature

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