Monday, 8 January 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

“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.”

I have a guilty confession to make - I might just be a little in love with the slightly damaged protagonist of The Dry and now Force of Nature, Aaron Faulk. The characters created in the latest novel elevate it from what could be a typical murder mystery, thriller. The women, in particular, are so well rendered, you feel that you might have met them. The office politics that precede the central drama and are exposed as the tale unravels are also familiar territory. Marry that with an increasingly foreboding sense of dread that kept me turning pages well after bedtime in a vain attempt to settle that awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach and you have a fantastic read. Not only did I immediately order this sequel as soon as I’d finished the first novel, I’m now anxiously anticipating further works. If I knew Jane, I’d dare say I’d be on the phone saying “hurry up and write the next one, you know I’ll buy it”.
AFP man, Aaron, has the seemingly unique ability to make sifting through financials and paperwork sexy. My only complaint was that he didn’t give into his baser urges with his colleague Carmen, whose fiancée sounds like a complete waste of space. Of course he didn’t though, because he’s such a lovely guy and still smarting from all the pain and suffering of the first book. I just want to give him a hug, after all, I am the patron saint of lost, damaged causes.

The use and abuse of mobile phones is particularly well treated here. Our reliance on them to get us out of trouble and the truly terrifying idea of being without cellular reception in a crisis. Not to mention the particularly topical aspects around sexting teens and cyber bullying.

Family drama is at the core of both novels and is something most readers can relate to in at least some degree.  There is a nuanced psychological motivation behind all the drama as it unfolds and a continued theme around how much our destiny is shaped by our parents. This serves to enrich the story and keep you engaged on multiple levels. The spectre of an Ivan Milat style killer’s son potentially on the loose, adds to the drama and further explores the notion of nature versus nurture. The scenes around the cabin invoked some white knuckle reading for me – I’m still exhausted today as I didn’t put this down until well after midnight, and then I had to read something else to settle my nerves.

Perhaps what I’m most excited about is how much fantastic writing is coming out of Australia at the moment. For a relatively small population, we produce some amazing reads and 2017 (and hopefully 2018) are proving to be stellar in that department. Force of Nature is no exception.

5 out of 5 – another tour de force.

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