“FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…
Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them. Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged landscape 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 particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.”
Force of Nature by Jane Harper tells the mystery story of five female colleagues who go on a walking retreat weekend in the middle of an Australian forest, yet only four make it to the other side. Where is Alice? And why have the four other women emerged injured, yet are unable to say what had happened? This is what Agent Aaron Falk is set to investigate!
What became apparent to me straight away was how much I loved the layout! Force of Nature is told through alternating chapters; that of the “present” with Falk investigating and uncovering clues to try and solve the mystery; and the “past” of the weekend, where we see the events and what specifically happened. For me, this made the book compelling and intriguing as it gradually revealed the truth and left me guessing until the end what the twists and turns could be!
What I also loved was how each of the five colleagues had very distinct personalities and backgrounds, with subplots based around their background and personal life (whilst intertwining into the main plot of Alice going missing). I think it could have been really easy to create 5 very similar, bland, middle-aged women with a focus on the mystery aspect, but this extra background gave another dimension and intriguing concept to this book. The plot AND the characters were fantastic and it’s great that as the truth emerges throughout the novel, we can see the role that each of these women (and their personalities) have on uncovering what really happened.
In terms of the mystery aspect of the book, I really didn’t see the ending coming (I don’t think many people would to be honest!) and that’s what makes a great mystery book. I was forever guessing what really happened and as new ideas and concepts were introduced, I found myself changing my mind constantly on who was to blame. Even if you guessed the ending whilst reading this book, I don’t think it would take away the enjoyment of reading it, especially as the gradual reveal is cleverly executed and the premise itself offers a unique and gripping storyline.
Prior reading Force of Nature, I hadn’t actually read The Dry, book number 1 in this mystery collection, so I was a bit worried as to whether I would grasp and understand the characters and plot etc. However, this book can be read as a standalone, and I believe just follows Detective Falk as he uncovers each mystery. Having read Force of Nature, I now can’t wait to go and read The Dry, and I definitely think you should pick it up too if you haven’t done so already!
*I received a book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way*