This week’s New Title recommendation, Jane Harper’s Force of Nature, is perfect for those of us who want the experience of travel but cannot physically go to Australia.  Listening to the narrator on the audiobook brings the land-down-under closer, especially when the setting – an inhospitable bushland in a mountain range – is as integral to the plot as the characters.

indexPublisher’s Summary: Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dryasks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead

Although it’s on my to-be-read list, I have not read the first Agent Falk book and UK Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger winner, The Dry.  It might have been nice to have the background before reading Force of Nature, but it was not critical.

As a fan of mysteries in general, it is not easy to craft a compelling murder with multi-dimensional characters and maintain a steady forward propulsion.  Harper makes it seem easy.  No doubt her craft is in part due to the education that prepared her for a career as a journalist.

It was not easy to predict who did it in this whodunnit.  Not only did the victim have a number of people who were not sorry to see her go, 20 years earlier in this same area, a serial killer took the lives of his victims – one of whose body was never found.

Lloyd Sachs wrote in his Chicago Tribune review: “The ease with which she shifts points of view and somehow makes disagreeable people sympathetic is special. So is her skill at ratcheting up the suspense. Harper, anything but a flash in the pan, has again raised the bar for emerging crime writers. Writing in the third person, she shows how to make “unreliable” narration work.”

One thing is true, after reading Force of Nature I want to go back and learn more about Aaron Falk’s background in The Dry – especially since it’s been optioned for a film.  I suspect, that someone is considering a screenplay for Force of Nature as we speak.

Happy reading and sleuthing, Susan C.

Also by Harper:

The Dry

The DryAfter getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

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