Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

BaileyTennants is a business currently under investigation by the Federal Police, but the direction of the investigation is about to take a strange turn. Five women head out into the wilderness on a bonding exercise, one of whom, Alice, is the whistleblower that Agent Aaron Falk is liaising with to bring down the company. But when he receives a voice message from Alice, quiet, indistinct, but with the words “hurt her” clearly audible, he realises something is wrong, something confirmed when the other four women on the trip stumble out of the wilderness with a simple question – “Is Alice here?”

Determined to find Alice, Falk and his team start to interview the other four – are they the survivors, or is Alice out there somewhere, lost and alone? Did an accident befall her – or something more sinister? Someone knows something about what happened out there – but can Aaron Falk find the truth in time?

The Dry was one of the hit thrillers of last year and the follow up – also featuring Falk, but completely standalone – has been highly anticipated, certainly by me. It’s had a slightly odd publishing schedule, being out for a few months as an ebook, but is out this week in hardback. I’ve been asked, along with quite a few other bloggers, to take part in the blog tour for the book launch – check out the graphic below for the other bloggers for today. There are many more spread throughout the week, so do look around for other opinions.

Back to the book itself, and it alternates between two narratives. One is the present day investigation into Alice’s whereabouts, focusing on Falk, looking at his progress and delving into his personal life, notably his relationship with his late father. The other steps a few days back in time, telling the story of the five women, each chapter focussing on one of the five and slowly developing the tensions between them. Each chapter balances up with the present day investigation, the two stories dovetailing together as the book progresses. The characters, both Falk and the five women are very well constructed, each distinct, with clear characteristics and motivations.

The problem that I had with the book is that The Dry set a very high standard for the writer and (and this clear if you look at the other reviews) I’m in a distinct minority here, I think that The Dry is the better book. Just. It’s a personal taste thing, as I prefer a clearly defined problem in my mysteries – a body in the library with a murder weapon in the back – rather than a “something undefined has or might have happened to someone” tale. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very strong, well-crafted tale, I just prefer the former structure.

So, fans of The Dry, why not check this one out? With a vibrant setting and intriguing characters, plus a tension-building plot, this will appeal to the mystery and thriller market alike. Highly Recommended.

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