Force of Nature (Harper)

Force of Nature  
Jane Harper, 2018
Flatiron Books
336 pp.

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Manchester, England, UK
Education—B.A., University of Kent (Canterbury, England)
Currently—lives in St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia

Jane Harper is an Englisn-born, partially Australian-raised writer, now living in Australia. She is the author of The Dry (2016/2017), Force of Nature (2018), and The Lost Man (2019)—all crime novels set in Australia.

Jane was born in Manchester, England, but her family moved to a subrub of Melbourne, Australia, where she lived till she was six. The family then returned to England, and Jane attended the University of Kent where she earned her B.A., in History and English.

Her first job out of school was as a journalist (yes, she actually had to pass a qualifying exam). She first worked for the Darlington & Stockton Times and, later, as senior news editor for the Hull Daily Mail, both papers in Yorkshire, England.

But Australia beckoned, and in 2008 Jane returned to her early childhood stromping grounds, again working in journalism—first for the Geelong Advertiser, then in 2011 for the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

After she had a short story accepted for inclusion in the annual Fiction Edition of The Big Issue (Melbourne), Jane turned to fiction writing in a serious way. In 2014, she signed up for a 12-week online creative writing course. The story she submitted for acceptance into the program turned out to be the beginning of her novel, The Dry. By the end of the three months, Jane had her first draft of the novel.

Making this almost a fairytale come true, Jane felt confident enough to enter the novel's third draft in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. It won the $15,000 prize in May, 2015, and Pan Macmillan paid a non-specified “six-figure” sum for a three-book deal.

Jane and her husband live in St. Kilda, outside of Melbourne, with their daughter. Jane now writes fiction full time. (Adapted from the author's website and

Book Reviews
A gripping tale of an elemental battle for survival.… Harper once again shows herself to be a storytelling force to be reckoned with.
Publishers Weekly

[A]n intriguing crime that might not actually exist and potential suspects with realistically complex personalities and possible motives. The two story lines, past and present, collide with a satisfying yet not gratuitous conclusion.
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Riveting, tension-driven thriller.… Perfect for fans of Tana French and readers who enjoy literary page-turners.

[C]rackerjack plotting propels the story.… Harper layers her story with hidden depths, expertly mining the distrust between Alice and her four colleagues, and the secrets that simmer under the surface.… A spooky, compelling read.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our GENERIC MYSTERY QUESTIONS to start a discussion for Force of Nature … then take off on your own:

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Thrillers

1. Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues in plain sight, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead readers astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

  1. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
  2. Are they plausible or implausible?
  3. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

  1. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
  2. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
  3. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
  4. Perhaps it's too predictable.
  5. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Are there certain passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing...or that somehow struck you? What lines, if any, made you stop and think?

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Why or why not?

(Generic Mystery Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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