Welcome to our second meeting of the Church of Jane Harper. So happy you could join me as we sing the praise of Aaron Falk. I’ve dived into Harper’s second novel, Force of Nature, and spoiler alert...it’s another 5/5 for me.
Just like last time, I’ll set up the story for you and then I’m diving into spoilers so beware!
Five women and five men go on a camping retreat for work. The groups split up and have to spend a few days hiking and camping before making their way to the finish line. The men arrive just fine, they wait around for a bit but there’s no sign of the women. When everyone starts to panic and the police start to get involved, the women appear. Bloody, bruised, and snake bitten but alive. Except for one. Only four women come out of those woods, and no one know where the fifth one is.
Okay spoiler tiiiiiiime my reading babies! Beware!
How can you not be totally stoked by that premise?! It’s the best kind of mystery thriller for me - one involving a bunch of shady characters, set outdoors in the wilderness, and so many motives. And Jane Harper is incredible at writing exactly that.
Aaron Falk is back, this time with his new partner Cameron. The two are trying to bring down BaileyTennants, a family run business that is doing some shady things with their money. Their mole is Alice, a woman who works for the company. She’s also the woman that’s gone missing. Aaron wakes up to a phone call from Cameron letting him know that Alice has gone missing in the forest, and Aaron soon discovers he has a mysterious voicemail from Alice that she left at 5 am on his phone. Nothing in the message except static unless he listens closely and he hears two words, hurt her.
The two head up to the mountain and begin to unravel exactly what’s gone on with this retreat.
Here’s what I love: Aaron Falk. He really is such an incredible lead! This book delves so much deeper into his Dad issues and does so wonderfully. Clearly set a few months after The Dry, Aaron is dealing with his burn injuries and the trauma from that case. Cameron, his new partner, is a great sense of comfort for him. And she’s also not afraid to call him out on his bullshit. By the end of the novel she’s really helped him move on from the trauma, and from his Dad, and encouraged him to start to really build a life for himself. It’s so lovely to see this man do something as simple as frame a photo of him and his father and hang it on his wall. It means so much. I really hope she writes another book with him as the lead because I’d be sad to lose him after reading all he’s been through. She makes him feel so real.
All the women in this book were fascinating. Obviously it surrounds the five women, and it jumps back and forth from present time with the survivors and what actually happened out in the woods. It’s incredible how Harper is able to weave such an intricate tale between five completely different women. When the final mystery is solved - Lauren accidentally killing Alice, it’s not as simple as it seems, just like in The Dry. And I think that’s why I love these books so much - it’s not this cut and dry whodunnit. It’s more realistic - it’s a number of little events that lead to a tragic death. Was Alice deserving of the hatred she received? Yes, she wasn’t a good person. But she was also a Mother and hardworking and passionate about her career. Was Lauren a monster for killing her? Yes, but she was also a Mother who had been pushed too far. And she left Lauren to die, not knowing that’s what she was doing. And the twins...they’re just as guilty as Lauren. Beth who had done some terrible things throughout her life, would do anything to get her sister to forgive her. And Bree was a pushover who just snapped. When she found Alice dead, she assumed her sister had done it out of revenge and hid the body. And Jill? She was just as guilty as the rest even though she never touched Alice.
That’s what I love the most about these books - is how complicated everyone is, just like in real life.
I loved the setting - I love me a good outdoors horror/mystery. And the serial killer element thrown in was a lot of fun. It was clearly a red herring but there was still a part of you that thought….well maybe it could be true? It’s also based on a real serial killer from Australia that my lovely friend Amy told me all about!
Overall, this is just another astounding novel from Jane Harper and dear god I hope she writes 50 more books. How am I going to last waiting for another novel from her?! She writes as if she’s been writing best selling novels her entire life. It’s incredible.
I love her, I love Aaron Falk, and I love this book.
READ IT PLEASE
You can check out my review of The Dry HERE
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