A 2018 REVIEW: FORCE OF NATURE By Jane Harper

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Publication Date: Feb 6th, 2018 by Flatiron Books

Short Summary: Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Did she purposely disappearance or was it murder? Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

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You may remember that this book was recently one I featured as one of my most anticipated sequels of 2018. I’m starting to dip into some of my 2018 reads and this was just calling to me. I loved The Dry and couldn’t wait to catch up with Aaron Falk. I did, however, read a couple reviews that weren’t all that favorable so I was anxious to see if I agreed with them or not…

The story basically centers around two groups (a men’s and a women’s) employed by the same company who’re sent on a professional team building retreat. The retreat consists of 3 days and nights of hiking and camping in a fairly remote wooded range in Australia. We find out right away that only 4 of the women return and when they do they are hours late and look much worse for the wear. So, the immediate question is…what’s happened to Alice?  Regarding the plot, the narrative structure, and the characters involved there honestly wasn’t that much that worked for me and it’s disappointing because I expected to love this.

What worked…

  • The descriptive details for the setting. Jane Harper can write wonderful setting details. While I didn’t find this to be as atmospheric as The Dry, I did feel like I was there in the woods with the cold and rain and darkness
  • The short chapters created a very fast reading pace and I was able to read this in one sitting
  • Aaron Falk. There’s something about this character that I really like. He’s somewhat of an enigma but just seems like a really good guy. I just wish the author would’ve done more with him in this story. To me, it seemed like he was an after thought and his character didn’t seem to evolve too much in this book.

What didn’t work….

  • The entire plot premise that a professional team building company would send inexperienced hikers out with no phones, no walkie talkies, no flares, no emergency provisions whatsoever and then never check to ensure they reached each campsite just made no sense to me and tarnished my ability to believe the story.
  • The characters. I felt the group of women were not only unlikeable but also thinly drawn. There were times I couldn’t remember who was who, they didn’t seem to be all that individualistic. And I found hard to care about any of them
  • The structure of the narrative. The story is told in present time from Aaron’s perspective as they are investigating and alternates with flashbacks of each day of the women’s journey. This seemed odd to me because we already know what happens so it often seemed unnecessary to retell some parts. For me, opening the book with the ending took away quite a bit of suspense.
  • The mystery. I found it to be pretty underwhelming and the red herrings were too obvious in my opinion.

Unfortunately, there was more that didn’t work for me than did in this story and I’m bummed about that because I think Jane Harper is a very talented writer. Maybe it was a case of rushing the second book as others have speculated, I’m not sure. I did enjoy seeing a little spark with Aaron at the end and I will definitely still give the next book in the series a try because I want to see what she does with Aaron’s character moving forward. If you haven’t read The Dry, I do highly recommend that one!

Many thanks to Flatiron Books for my copy

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it.

My PICK this week is:

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Published Jan 2014 by Doubleday

One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of the chorus line.

As the twisted truth emerges, Ariel Lawhon’s wickedly entertaining debut mystery transports us into the smoky jazz clubs, the seedy backstage dressing rooms, and the shadowy streets beneath the Art Deco skyline.

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Well, I’ve officially began tackling my looming backlist with this read this week and I have to say, I really enjoyed reading something that’s not new or upcoming. Plus, I got out of my comfort zone (somewhat) with historical fiction, although still with a mystery component. I’m a complete sucker for any book that starts off with the premise… so and so was last seen doing ______ and was never heard from again! I should say, I love that premise knowing it’s a true story. So, I jumped into this without googling anything about the case because I just wanted to have this author’s story in my head.

The story takes place in 1930 New York City and alternates with present day snippets with Stella and Jude, a detective on the case. We meet Stella first as she’s with Joe at their vacation house in Maine and right off the bat we discover she’s got Joe’s number as far as his cheating ways and she’s not particularly keen to sit back and let him get away with it. In New York City, we meet Maria, Joe and Stella’s maid as well as a renowed seamstress who’s husband Jude is a NYC police officer who gets assigned to Joe’s case when he goes missing. Webs begin to get weaved when Maria walks in on something at Joe and Stella’s apartment that she really wishes she hadn’t. Finally, there’s Ritzi, a feisty showgirl and Joe’s mistress who’s gotten herself tanged with the likes of a very dangerous gangster. As the story alternates between all 3 women I was left wondering if it could possibly end well for any of them!

I was really invested in the characters, time period, and setting of this book. I thought the author did a fantastic job of piecing together long ago facts and details and imagining how the story might have unfolded as to what happened to Joe. I do, however, think there were several lulls in the story which caused me to start to skim. When it happened several times, I felt that took away a little intensity in terms of the pace but I really have to say that overall, I enjoyed this story! It ended up having a couple surprises that I found interesting and bittersweet as well. If you’re in the mood for a detail oriented historical mystery set in NYC, I say definitely grab this one and give it a try.

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Noriko at Book Fiend

Rebecca at BoofsBooks

Amy at NovelGossip

Lynne at Fictionophile

Nicki at The Secret Library