Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Force of Nature

By Lynn Willoughby

Force of Nature ~ Jane Harper

This story line had great promise. A group of five women are sent on a three day hike and camp out as part of a team building exercise for their company. They are in the Giralang Ranges just outside of Melbourne. What could possibly go wrong?

Just about everything, as it turns out. These are women who are used to wearing high heels and getting their nails done. No one knows how to read a map or use a compass. It seems to be the worst time of year as it is constantly raining, windy and cold. They have blisters on their heels from their new hiking boots, their shoulders are rubbed raw from carrying the heavy packs, someone drops and loses their fuel for the camp stove, someone drinks all their water within hours – and that’s only the first morning!!

You can see where this is going. They do manage to find the first campsite – or at least some kind of campsite. Then the bickering begins. No one has a clue about pitching a tent, or starting a fire, especially with damp wood. Their first night’s meal is “boil in a bag” beef stew with rice. Someone is vegetarian, someone else is not eating carbs. Are those sounds coming from the woods animals? Are they in danger? It is still raining and everything is wet. The bickering quickly becomes savage.

This novel alternates between the five women on the hike and the police investigation in the days following. Four women eventually make it out of the bush – nowhere near the rendezvous point and several days late. One is missing and all the statements of the survivours seem a little off to Detective Falk.

While there were five whiny women in a situation no one wanted, my real problem with this book is the discrepancies in the details. While the trees are so dense it is almost dark on the trails, there is constantly trash blowing around. Detective Falk’s father hiked these same trails and left maps which are often referred to – but that goes nowhere. The organizer of the exercise is always lurking around. What does he know? I STILL don’t know. Give me an Elizabeth George mystery any day – where all the subtleties and details and nuances are connected to the story.  

Not highly recommended.

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