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Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature

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"Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

"The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

"Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew."

This thriller is very atmospheric, with a strong sense of an alien setting in lush Australia. It really keeps you guessing as to what has happened and who is responsible. The subplot of photos online is also very realistic and adds to the emotions of guilt and resentment the characters experience.

The story flicks between time periods and although irritating for some at the start, this works well as the book progresses, and is not kept explicitly to alternate chapters. To build momentum, the chapters become shorter and the sentences more abrupt.

The relationship between Falk and Carmen is well handled, but having a pair of twin characters with similar names caused confusion - we had to keep flicking back to check which one was the 'smoker'.

The story sparked lively discussion about our own experiences of being lost and frightened, as well as the group's situation. Many of us likened the book to Lord of the Flies.

Force of Nature is a rattling good tale, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We recommend you set aside a block of time to read it in order to really get the most from the build-up. It's an easy read and a very good book!