Force of Nature
by Jane Harper
This is a thriller, and certainly it has that un-put-downable quality that crime thrillers require.
However, it has an unusual setting.
Five women go on a hike in difficult country. They all work for the same company, but in the bush they are out of their comfort zone, supposedly experiencing the lessons to be learned by togetherness and survival in a challenging environment, without the comforts of mobile phones and computers and the instant gratification which is a constant part of their city lives.
The bush is cold, wet and unwelcoming, and if the author’s depiction is accurate, possibly the sort of country humans should stay out of, but, of course, most of it has been tamed with tracks, shelters and signs.
However, from the beginning there is conflict and difficulty for these women, since they inadvertently get off the beaten track, and personalities, hierarchy and past history make it impossible for them to operate as a team. Disasters and squabbles prevail.
The unpleasant and threatening conditions are constant and unrelenting, and when one of the five fails to return, the police are called in.
Two of the group are actually Federal Police, whose real quarry is the undercover agent among the women who is tasked with delivering proof that the company is a cover-up for seriously criminal activity. She would be at risk if this became known, so there is an added concern for the missing woman.
As we see the relationships change between the women, they are suddenly reduced to ‘‘schoolyard’’ scrapping, and eventually the drama and the blaming cause the complete disintegration of the group.
The author, British born but now an Australian resident, paints a believable picture of hiking in what now passes for ‘‘the wilderness’’, and it’s a good story.
Jane Harper is well on the road to success.
— Lee Stephenson