Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper (2017) French title: Sauvage

Force of Nature is the second volume of the Aaron Falk crime fiction series by Jane Harper. Five men and five women from the company BaileyTennants are sent on a company retreat in the Giralang Ranges. The two groups have to hike during several days, looking for banners, going from one campsite to the other until they make it to the arrival.

The problem is…only four women come back and Alice Russel has disappeared. Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen are worried about this because Alice was the whistleblower in the case they’re working on. Daniel and Jill Bailey, the managers and owners of this family business are involved in money laundering for wider criminal networks. Falk and Carmen are only cogs in a giant investigation and they were about getting crucial documents from Alice about the Baileys’ business.

Does her disappearance have anything to do with their case?

Jane Harper weaves a masterful net of relationships between the women. They are mismatched. The group leader is Jill Bailey, as a member of senior management. Alice Russel, the one who disappeared is here with her assistant Bree McKenzie. Lauren Shaw went to a special boarding school with Alice Russell and they’ve known each other for thirty years. The last participant is Beth McKenzie, Bree’s twin sister.

All have a specific relationship with Alice. Alice is known as an ice queen bitch, so the others might have her reasons to wish for her disappearance. Jill muses:

Being around Alice was like owning an aggressive breed of dog. Loyal when it suited, but you had to stay on your toes.

There’s some resentment between her and Lauren, she tends to bully Beth. Jill’s side business in the firm is threatened by Alice’s interactions with the police. The book is constructed in such a way that the reader alternates between following the police investigation and the rangers’ researches to find Alice in the bush and following the women’s hike and discover how things went wrong. At the beginning, the device bothered me a bit but it proved excellent because it broke the monotony of the investigation and broke the palpable tension I felt when I was following the women’s hike. The bushland setting contributes to the tension of the story as it is rife with dangers. In a way, it talks to our deepest fear, the ones we heard of in fairy tales when we were little, the fear to get lost in the forest.

It was strange, Jill thought, how much the bushland started to look alike. Twice she’d spotted something – once a stump, the other time a fallen tree – which she was sure she remembered from earlier. It was like walking in a semi-constant sense of déjà vu.

The bushland is another character, it’s not human but it sure helps move the plot forward and add on the feeling of urgency and of threat.

It’s a clever crime fiction novel, one I’d recommend as a summer read. Harper’s style is efficient, to the point but not very literary. There are better crime fiction books than this one, as far as literature is concerned. However, it’s an excellent reading time.

On last note, I bought a copy in the original and it gave me another opportunity to work on my spoken Australian English, after Anita Heiss and Marie Munkara. And I am puzzled by the Australian habit to shorter words like bikie or barbie. I’m getting used to the short words with an “ie” as a suffix though. However, I had to google spag bol because I couldn’t figure out what they were eating. (It doesn’t help that visually, bol is bowl in French)

Force of Nature is another contribution to the Australian Women Writer Challenge.

  1. July 16, 2018 at 9:37 am

    *chuckle* I’ve never read this one because I don’t read crime fiction…but I believe it’s quite highly thought of by people who do.

    Like

    • July 16, 2018 at 10:08 pm

      It’s not as fantastic as, let’s say James Lee Burke, but it’s a good read. I have the first volume for future flights.

      Like

      • July 16, 2018 at 10:12 pm

        There were some allusions to the first volume but not enough to be a bother while reading the second one.
        I have The Dry on my ereader, I’m curious about it, to learn more about Falk and his past. I’m going to spend a lot of time on planes in the next few weeks, it’s the perfect read for that.

        Like

      • July 17, 2018 at 1:43 am

        Ah yes, do you have a stopover somewhere to break the longhaul flight to Australia?

        Like

  2. July 16, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    The Dry has been a big success over here in the UK, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one does in its wake. Can it be read as a standalone or does it require some prior knowledge of Falk’s character from the first book to work at its best?

    Like

    • July 21, 2018 at 7:45 am

      Someone on the French radio also recommended The Dry, I guess it’s a good one.

      In Force of Nature, there were references to the first volume, but not strong enough to feel left out when you haven’t read The Dry.

      Like

  3. July 18, 2018 at 4:55 am

    Spag bol was my – and many other Australians of my generation – first move towards food sophistication (not counting chop suey) after years of meat and veg. Glad you’re learning the lingo, and women and children missing in the Bush is the great trope of Australian Lit.

    Like

    • July 18, 2018 at 11:47 pm

      I can see how losing people in the bush can be an endless source of inspiration for writers.
      So, spag bol were exotic in Australia once upon a time?

      Like

  4. July 21, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Just bought this one so I’m glad to see you liked it.

    Like

    • July 21, 2018 at 7:42 am

      I’m looking forward to reading your review.
      I have The Dry too, I expect to enjoy it too.

      Like

  1. July 31, 2018 at 1:11 pm
  2. January 3, 2019 at 6:32 pm

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