Force of Nature by Jane Harper, 4 Stars

I recently read The Dry by Jane Harper. I think I’ve mentioned this book in my blog before. Somehow I managed to not hear about this book, when apparently everyone has been talking about it. So I picked it up and it was good. Good, but also memorable. Because I read it a couple of books back and the characters and plot have stuck with me.

Sometimes you don’t know how good a book was until you can’t stop thinking about it! The Dry felt a bit different from other books I’ve read in the suspense genre. Is it because the author is from Melbourne? Maybe. Although she is from the UK and I read a lot of books by British authors.

I think it’s that it feels like Jane Harper took her time weaving the characters and the plot. She slow played the writing game, not sparing a single detail, drawing the plot out. And it worked. Nothing is rushed, there isn’t some crazy Scooby Doo ending. The story runs its course. And on top of that, it’s a damn fantastic story.

So today, we are on to Force of Nature, her sophomore effort. And I think I may have liked it even better than The Dry!

From the Publisher:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

My Review:

So how painful does the premise for Force of Nature sound? Going on a corporate retreat with four of your coworkers from all ranks of the company and having to survive out in a vast forest for three days with no phones and just the packs on your back? Not only a forest, but one where twenty years earlier, a serial killer was on the loose?

No thank you.

But as painful as the scenario sounds, it’s a fantastic set-up for Harper’s newest novel. And when only 4 of the 5 coworkers emerge from the woods, its’ almost like a game of Clue trying to figure out what happened. It’s genius because the reader is learning about the characters in the book as the characters in the book are learning about each other. Although, as the book progresses, there are definitely things that we are privy to that the characters are not.

It’s  a page-turning, connect-the-dots, whodunit that I found to be a deeply satisfying read. We all wear masks in life, to cover up who we really are. But that is especially true at work when we are trying to appear as normal and professional as we can. Because we need to impress the people we work with. Harper peels back the mask on each and every character throughout the book. And everyone is hiding some kind of heartbreak, malice or scandal.

I also have to admit that after reading The Dry and Force of Nature, I feel a bit duped. See, I’m not a big fan of series books. I just find them to be a little formulaic. So I went into Force of Nature, not even realizing it is in the same series as The Dry. And guess what? I was super excited to see Aaron Falk again. He is a super normal, relatable and likeable guy. And besides his and his partner, Carmen’s presence, there wasn’t a single formulaic similarity between the books (that I could tell.)

I highly recommend Jane Harper’s books. She’s the real deal! So run out, grab a copy of Force of Nature–and The Dry if you haven’t read that one yet, because it’s a series after all. I’m going to be eagerly anticipating the third book!

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