Force of Nature by Jane Harper - Book Review

Force of Nature

Force of Nature is the follow-up novel to award-winning Australian author Jane Harper’s stunning debut, The Dry.

The beauty of books

I often worry that if the police come knocking on my door and decide to browse my Netflix history, I may be in some strife. What can I say…I am a sucker for a good crime story. The twists and turns, the leads and dead-ends; it’s often a roller coaster ride, but one that I love. Jane Harper’s novel Force of Nature is no exception to this rule.

I’ve always believed that books are the best breeding ground for imagination. The pictures exist only in our minds. We are the producer, the director, every person behind the camera. It is a story that plays out differently before each reader’s eyes. We each see a different perspective, focus on different details.

Reading crime fiction is, in my humble opinion, the perfect amalgamation of imagination and investigation.

READ NEXT: A Review of The Dry by Jane Harper

The story

After Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry took the literary world by storm, there was much anticipation around her second novel, Force of Nature.

Once again, however, Jane Harper creates a scene so vivid that we, as readers, are placed ringside watching the events play out before our eyes.

Set in the fictional Giralang Ranges, a heavily forested region east of Melbourne, Australia, Harper creates a picture of a deep dark forest, hiding countless secrets within its depths. Equally as hostile as the desolate environment of The Dry, the ranges are difficult to navigate; but with Harper’s expert prose, readers will easily traverse the twists and turns.

Force of Nature is centred around five female colleagues: Jill, Lauren, Alice and twins Bree and Beth. From assistant to co-owner, the women set off on a retreat in order to develop bonds that transcend corporate hierarchies.

Lauren and Alice, two such contrasting women, have known each other since childhood; Bree and Beth are twin sisters with nothing more than a blood connection; Jill Bailey runs the business alongside her brother and is embroiled in family politics.

The women embark upon the treacherous hike and soon, cracks begin to appear. When the women don’t return from the ranges, an extensive search begins. When the women finally emerge, it is without Alice Russell.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk is soon brought into the investigation as a result of his involvement with the missing colleague. Alice is the whistle-blower in his case against the Bailey’s business.

As Agent Falk seeks to uncover the mystery of Alice’s disappearance, he slowly begins to understand the many secrets hidden just below the surface. Jill, Lauren, Alice, Bree and Beth were not only battling the unforgiving environment, but also each other.

The review

Force of Nature is akin to a modern-day Lord of the Flies. Whilst the backdrops are in vast contrast, the sentiment is much the same.

Both stories are about societies, large or small, and their propensity to descend into violence and chaos in a bid to survive.

As Jane Harper takes us on a journey through the Giralang Ranges, we are privy to a variety of relationships: those between the women, within their own families and, finally, with themselves.

The structure moves between past and present; following the women on the hike and the present-day investigation undertaken by Agent Falk. The constant shifts skilfully build the tension as Falk closes in on the hikers. With every step they take, more tales of secrecy, deception and betrayal emerge; which will leave you urging Agent Falk to delve deeper, look closer.

We are also offered a unique insight into Falk’s own background and relationship with his late father. Having been introduced to the two in Harper’s first novel, it is now months later and it becomes evident that the agent is battling his own demons.

Whilst some novels may struggle to hold onto readers from the first page to the last, Jane Harper ably builds an engrossing tale, with carefully woven stories within, shedding light on each and every character.

Force of Nature is truly a force that will engulf and consume you from beginning to end.

About the author

Jane Harper is a UK-born writer who relocated to Australia at the age of eight. Having gained her Australian citizenship, Harper returned to the UK to complete a degree at the University of Kent, before later pursuing a journalism entry qualification.

Her love of creative writing, however, flourished after she successfully submitted a short story to the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition. That short story would ultimately become the award-winning novel, The Dry 

Jane Harper now lives in Australia with her family and we can only hope that novel number three is already in the works…

The blurb

What has happened to Alice Russell?

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. 

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least, that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bush walker. Alice Russell is the whistle-blower in his latest case. She knows all the secrets: about the company she works for and the people she works with. 

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, Falk is told a tale of violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers run far deeper than anyone knew.


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Book review - Force of Nature by Jane Harper