Force of Nature takes place about six months after the events of The Dry. Our main protagonist is again Aaron Falk, a rather unlikely hero - a financial detective with the AFP (Australian Federal Police). Aaron becomes involved with the search for a missing woman, Alice Russell, after a company team-building weekend goes awfully, awfully wrong.
Ten people, five men and five women, go on a weekend camping trip in the Victorian bush. They are split into male and female teams. Alice disappears during the walk, and for a long time, at least half the book, we don't what has happened to her. We don't even know if Alice is alive or dead. If she is dead what happened? If she is alive where is she? The area they go to, the fictitious Giralang Ranges, has a dark history, with an Ivan Milat-esque serial killer active in the area in the past. One of his victims has never been found, and the aura of that time lingers in the minds of everyone, inextricably linked to the Giralangs.
Force of Nature has a great structure with two alternating narrative threads twining together like a rope pulling us along, drawing us inevitably towards the end. One, is the current investigation into Alice's disappearance, and the other is a narrative account of the four days the women were together on the hike. Each of the women has their own backstory, with their own history in the relationships between them, and their own secrets that play out when they are thrown together in difficult circumstances. For the first two thirds or so I was just listening in the car whenever I had the chance and partially invested, but towards the end I was swept up and I ended up listening to the last third or quarter binge style in one evening at home.
I really loved Steve Shannahan's narration of The Dry, but it didn't work quite so well for me here. Much of Force of Nature is dialogue between the five women on the retreat and having a blokey Australian male voice bringing their words to life seemed wrong. His narration of the Aaron Falk chapters worked much better for me.
I do know that someday soon I'll be listening to Jane Harper's third and most recent book The Lost Man.
Jane Harper talking about life and Force of Nature at SWF 2018