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Force of Nature
Jane Harper
Reviewed by Phil

Five women set off on a company team-building exercise in the Giralang Ranges, a mountainous forest area in northern Victoria. Their task is to hike through the forest, camping out for three nights along the way. Four days later, only four of the women emerge.

The missing woman, Alice Russell, has been helping the federal police with their investigation of money laundering at the company, BaileyTennants, a boutique accounting firm in Melbourne. Federal agent Aaron Falk’s last contact with his informant was a curt message received at 4am from somewhere in the forest. The only words he can distinguish are “hurt her.” But who wanted to hurt Alice, and why?

On the night of the first camp, the women are joined by a group of five men from the same company, out on their own retreat. Daniel Bailey, chief executive of BaileyTennants, draws Alice aside. They are seen talking angrily, gesticulating wildly. Does he know that Alice has turned informant?

The four women have their own loyalties and resentments. Each of them has a slightly different version of the events of the last few days, and each has a different motivation for keeping back certain parts of the story.

The Giralang Ranges have a history of their own. Twenty years earlier, they were home to the notorious Martin Kovac, convicted of murdering three young women whose bodies were found buried in the forest. A fourth woman was never found. Kovac died recently in prison, but there are rumors that his son has returned to the area.

Harper sets the scene beautifully for this brilliant crime novel. There are so many elements to the story, suspicions to be followed, and layers to be uncovered. This is a page-turner of a book that keeps you guessing right until the very end.

Jane Harper lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her first novel, The Dry (2016), was an international bestseller. Force of Nature is her second novel.

 

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