Published: Flatiron Books, February 2018
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“Forget having choices and being in control, what if that’s all bullshit? I don’t feel in control at all. What if we don’t have any choice in anything, and we’re actually all destined to stay lost out here? Alone and scared and never found?”
5 women walk into the forest on a teambuilding-hike. A few days later, only 4 return.
That was the set-up that drew me into Jane Harpers second thriller from the perspective of detective Aaron Falke, in which he investigates the disappearance of a young woman in the Australian wildlands. What followed was a highly atmospheric thriller, that had just the right amount of intrigue, realism and oppressive presence of sheer natural forces of the outdoors, that kept me reading for hours on end.
Jane Harper does a magnificent job of keeping the stakes and tension high throughout the story, as each chapter ends on a cliffhanger to push the reader forward. The chapters alternate between the perspective of the 5 women out in the wild, and detective Falke so the release of tension is never instantaneous, but never too far away. This narrative style, similar to in The Dry, works well for the type of book this is.
For all the care that went into creating an atmosphere that felt like a character on its own, I do feel the actual characters in the story were a little underdeveloped. In an interpersonal-thriller with only 6 characters (7 if you count Falks partner Carmen), development of each of these cast-members is very important. While I commend Harper for creating a backstory for each and every one of them, I felt many of them remained a little one dimensional, relying on a single character trait to carry them. It wasn’t quite a make-or-break issue, and the story stood on its own well enough as it was, but for me, a little more rounded development could have elevated this from a 4-star read to a 4.5 or even 5-star.
If you enjoyed The Dry, Force of Nature is a worthy successor and definitely worth your time. It continues the good that the first book had, whilst amping up the atmosphere to eleven. That being said: even if you haven’t read The Dry, I still think you could very well enjoy Force of Nature, as both books can be read separately without too many problems. For someone like me, who used to read quite a lot of thrillers in their teens but has strayed away from the genre for a while now, this was a very happy return to my roots. Jane Harper left me with a taste for more, which I hope her 2019-release The Lost Man will satisfy.
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