Force of Nature

Australian Jane Harper took the mystery genre by storm with her 2017 debut, The Dry, which won numerous awards and is being made into a motion picture. With Force of Nature, the stellar second entry in her Federal Agent Aaron Falk series, Harper has swerved about as far around a sophomore slump as one can get.

The briefest dip into the prologue results in stomach-tightening anticipation that begs the reader to continue: "Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you." Alice's failure to make the rendezvous point following a corporate retreat in the vast Giralang Ranges outside Melbourne--"land that was reluctant to let anything escape"--is of keen interest to Falk and his new partner. Alice is the key to their high-pressure investigation into her employer's possible money-laundering.

Still smarting from the events of The Dry, Falk heads to the dense forest to observe the search and to interview the co-workers who returned without Alice, each with his or her own version of events. Although Falk is mostly outside the hunt and remains enigmatic, Harper skillfully uses him and retreat-participant flashbacks as perfect story lenses. She infuses the narrative with energy and atmosphere as Falk plumbs professional and personal relationships for clues to Alice's fate. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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