Force of Nature by Jane Harper: Blog Tour

I was delighted when Kimberley from Little, Brown Book Group UK asked me to be part of the blog tour for the hardback release of Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

Little, Brown Book Group UK |8 February 2018 |Review copy |4*

Blurb (Publishers):

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

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.

My thoughts:

I’ve never been on a team building exercise like this one in Force of Nature – thank goodness! This one for employees of an accountancy firm, BaileyTennants is a really bad one – two groups, five men and five women with no experience of hiking are sent out into the outback, on their own, for a few days. The only training they were given was a half-day course in navigation for one member of each team. And they weren’t allowed to take their phones with them. Inevitably the worst happened – the women’s group got lost and when they eventually returned one person, Alice Russell, was missing.

Once I had got over my disbelief that such a terrible team building exercise would actually happen, this is fiction after all, I found that I loved this book, set in the fictional Giralang Ranges in Australia, seeing the Mirror Falls roaring down from a cliff edge into the pool fifteen metres below, the eucalyptus trees and the dense bush, and the breathtaking views of rolling hills and valleys as the gum trees give way,  with the sun hanging low in the distance.

In fact I soon became completely absorbed in the mystery of what happened to Alice. The narrative moves between two different time periods that gradually merge into one. The descriptions of both the locations and the characters are wholly convincing – it was as though I was there in the bush, with the women struggling to get back on course and find their way back to the rendezvous point. I could feel their frustration and fear of the elements and whatever danger was out there in the bush, as their food and water ran out and they struggled desperately to survive. Their relationships, not good at the start, rapidly deteriorate as underlying jealousies and resentments come out into the open and results in violence.

Equally convincing is the search party, with Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his colleague Carmen Cooper from the financial investigation unit in Melbourne. They were involved in the search because Alice, the missing woman, was a whistle blower, helping them to uncover an elaborate money-laundering scheme run by BaileyTennants, the company that employs her and the other women.

It’s as much a character study as it is a mystery. Alice is a very unpopular person and any one of the other women could have been responsible for her disappearance. The tension and suspense is carried through to the end – an end that I thought I’d worked out, but of course I hadn’t got it right.

This is the second of Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk’s novels. The first is The Dry, which I haven’t read yet. So I was pleased to find that Force of Nature works very well as a standalone book. There are a few references to what I think must have happened in The Dry, but nothing that gave away the plot of that  book. I’ll definitely read The Dry as soon as possible now.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Amazon UK link

About the Author

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s second novel. Janeharper.com.au.

And do check out the other blogs taking part in this tour today:

Force of Nature

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir: Blog Tour

Last year I wrote about The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – it was my first venture into Icelandic Noir and I loved it. So I was delighted when Jenni from Hodder Paperbacks asked me to be part of the blog tour for its release in paperback.

It’s the first in the Children’s House thriller series, translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.

9781473621558

Blurb (Amazon):

Detective Huldar is out of his depth. His first murder case is like nothing he’s seen before – a bizarre attack on a seemingly blameless woman.

The only evidence is a list of numbers found at the scene, and the testimony of the victim’s eleven-year-old daughter, who isn’t talking.

While his team attempt to crack the code, Huldar turns to child psychologist Freyja for her expertise with traumatised young people.

Because time is running out…and the one thing they know for certain is that the murderer will strike again.

My review – first posted 27 March 2017:

I think the first thing I should say about this book is that I loved it and once I started reading I just didn’t want to put it down. What is so remarkable about that is that there are some particularly dark and nasty murder scenes, which would normally guarantee that I’d stop reading. I am so glad I did read on. The Legacy is an excellent book. It’s dark, mysterious and very cleverly plotted, full of tension and nerve-wracking suspense. Although I thought I’d worked out who the murderer is I was completely wrong, but looking back I could see all the clues are there, cunningly concealed – I just didn’t notice them.

It begins with a prologue set in 1987 when three young children, two boys and their little sister are waiting to be adopted. It’s hard to find anyone willing to adopt all three and they are separated. The psychiatrists’ opinion is that it is in their best interests to be parted and that their horrendous background be kept secret, hoping that time and being split up would obliterate their memories. I did try to keep the events in the prologue in mind as I read and had some idea of how it related to the rest of the book, but it was only when I came to the dramatic conclusion that everything became clear.

Move forward to 2015 to Elisa whose husband is away leaving her on her own with three young children for a week. Her seven-year old daughter, Margrét wakes her, frightened because there is a man in the house. What follows is the first horrifying murder (read it quickly and try not to linger over the details because the pictures they paint don’t bear thinking about). Margrét, who was hiding when her mother is killed, is the only witness and she’s too traumatised to say very much.

She is taken to the Children’s House where Freyja, the child psychologist in charge and the detective Huldar, in charge of the police investigation, try to get to the truth. It’s immensely difficult, complicated by more murders. Freyja and Huldar are both sympathetic characters, both deeply committed to their jobs, but because of past history between them unable to trust each other.

The narrative is in the third person and switches between Freyja’s and Huldar’s viewpoints, interspersed by that of another character, Karl a student and radio ham enthusiast who has been receiving strange messages from a mysterious numbers station broadcasting, unusually, in Icelandic. These consist of long strings of numbers read out by synthesised voices. Karl dreams of successfully cracking the codes. I was both intrigued and completely mystified by this part of the novel. I was completely engrossed in the plot and the characters and I shall certainly be reading more of Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s books in the future.

My thanks to the publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, and NetGalley for my review copy.

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (25 Jan. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1473621550
  • ISBN-13: 978-1473621558
  • My rating: 5* (despite the horrific murders)

Amazon UK link
Amazon US link

And do check out the other blogs taking part in this tour 

Blog Tour the legacy

Extraordinary People by Peter May

Extraordinary People (The Enzo Files, #1)

I loved Peter May’s Lewis trilogy and I also enjoyed his standalone book, Entry Island, so I decided to read Extraordinary People, the first in his Enzo Files series when I saw a copy in a secondhand bookshop (along with the second in the series, The Critic). They are both TBR books.

Set in France the action moves between various locations, but is mainly in Paris, as Enzo Macleod tries to solve a cold case mystery, that of the disappearance and presumed death of Jacques Gaillard, an eminent professor, 10 years earlier. Enzo is trained as forensic scientist, who is now a professor of  biology at a university in Toulouse. He has taken a bet that he can solve seven of the most notorious murders, using modern technology. Journalist Roger Raffin had originally researched the Gaillard case and shares his information with Enzo and accompanies him on the search.

It helps that a metal trunk had been found in the catacombs under the Place d’Italie, containing a skull and a number of apparently unconnected items. Enzo succeeds in establishing that it is Gaillard’s skull and using the items in the trunk as clues begins the search for the rest of his skeleton. This takes the form of internet searches, DNA investigations and leaps of intuition, ending up in a dramatic scene back in the Paris catacombs. Enzo’s own life is in danger and that of his elder daughter, Kirsty.

There is quite a lot about Enzo and his family background. He is of Scottish/Italian parents, with a complicated personal life. He has two daughters, by different mothers. Kirsty refuses to have anything to do with him, whereas Sophie who dotes on him, lives with him, whilst Enzo can’t stand her boyfriend.

I had a couple of small issues with this book. It takes the form of a puzzle and a chase to find the culprit, much in the same vein as Dan Brown’s books. I did find it rather implausible that the murderer would have left such specific clues and although Enzo does raise the question of why anyone would do that, it’s never properly answered (to my mind at least).

I also questioned why the French police ordered him to leave the investigation solely to them without using his obvious skills and knowledge (there is a reason for that, which I quickly surmised).

Another little niggle is the way May interspersed the text with French words for some items, but not others – the word séjour is used a lot but other rooms such as ‘bedroom’, ‘hall’ are in English – a minor quibble I know, but each time I read it I wondered why.

But, having said all that I did like the book, it’s very readable and I learned a lot about Paris and its catacombs.

  • My copy: published in GB in 2014 by Quercus Editions Ltd, 420 pages
  • Source: I bought a secondhand paperback copy
  • My rating: 3* (it would have been 4*, but for the leaps of intuition and other small issues I had with this book)

Reading Challenges: my 3rd book for the RIP 2017 challenge and my 20th book for Bev’s Mount TBR 2017.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Taxidermist's Daughter

Publication date: September 2015, Orion Books

Source: my own copy

Rating: 3*

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a difficult book to review without giving away too much detail particularly about the element that almost made me stop reading and because of that I was in two minds what rating to give it. The main thing that I didn’t like is all the detail about taxidermy – and there is a lot of detail. I found its gruesome application in this book absolutely sickening. But I still read on, such is the strength of Kate Mosse’s ghoulish storytelling.

Blurb (from the back cover):

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years . . .

Connie Gifford is the taxidermist’s daughter and she has grown up learning the art of taxidermy, taking over from her father who is a hopeless drunk. Her mother had died giving birth to her and there had been an accident when she was twelve (ten years earlier), which had almost completely wiped the first twelve years of her life from her mind.

The book began well, full of atmosphere, set in the Fishbourne Marshes and the tidal estuary in West Sussex (where Kate Mosse grew up), with Gothic overtones and hints of dark and terrible secrets and revenge. There is the mystery of the dead woman who has been garroted – who was she? What, or who haunts Connie’s father? What had happened to Connie when she was twelve, and who was the girl Connie vaguely remembers – older than her, with a love of life and a yellow ribbon in her hair? She experiences strange episodes where she feels herself falling out of time, spinning and flying through the air – episodes full of menace and threat.

But it dragged in the middle, with too many indistinct male characters and even though there is a map showing the layout of Fishbourne in 1912 I had difficulty in following the location of the action, nor could I work out how quickly they seemed to be able to travel between the various houses and Chichester.

It ends dramatically in death and destruction, with all the strands of the story coming together, one dark and stormy night. The waters rise, as the banks of the rivers, streams, the mill pond and the sluice gates break, flooding the whole area. Connie’s memories too come flooding back as the wind and rain join the thundering torrent of the flood water.

After a while though too much was foreshadowed and the story became rather predictable, which lessened the tension. Its gruesomeness however will stay with me for quite a while.

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR 2017 and R.I.P. 2017

My Friday Post: Extraordinary People

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring Extraordinary People by Peter May

Extraordinary People (The Enzo Files, #1)

Prologue

August 1996

He finds himself in a cobbled courtyard, breath hissing back at him from buttressed walls. A rasping, gasping breath, full of fear and the certainty of death.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56

‘He’s Scottish,’ Raffin said.

Thomas made a slight forward thrusting movement of his jaw to indicate his contempt for anyone who wasn’t Parisian.

Blurb:

An old mystery. 
As midnight strikes, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France.

A new science. 
Forensic expert Enzo Macleod takes a wager to solve the seven most notorious French murders, armed with modern technology and a total disregard for the justice system.

A fresh trail. 
Deep in the catacombs below the city, he unearths dark clues deliberately set – and as he draws closer to the killer, discovers that he is to be the next victim.

What do you think? Would you continue reading?

The House by Simon Lelic

Publication date: 17 August 2017, Penguin

Source: review copy via NetGalley

Blurb:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it. So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…

Given the title, The House, I anticipated that the main focus would be a house. And it was, at the beginning, which really raised my expectations that this was going to be a suspense-filled creepy book with hints even of the supernatural. Syd found the house advertised on the internet; the owner had suddenly moved to Australia, leaving the house fully furnished and she was immediately smitten by it. Jack wasn’t so sure – he thought it was creepy, full of junk, with an overgrown garden. But they put in a bid and were amazed when they got it a bargain price.

Jack and Syd share the narrative, explaining how they came to buy the house and their feelings as they move in and experience strange, disgusting smells and scary noises in the night. Then Jack found something nasty in the attic, which I thought must be something so evil, because he didn’t want to tell Syd what it was. He began to worry why the owner had wanted him and Syd to have the house. It’s a nightmare scenario.

But then the focus changed and the mystery of the house was absorbed into a very complex story that is difficult to write about without giving away the plot. As I read on and found out more about Jack and Syd it became clear that this book is not really about the house – it’s about their past lives and in particular about Syd’s. I think that if I had known more about that before, I wouldn’t have chosen to read the book. It’s a story about despair, domestic violence, dark secrets and the effects of the past on the present.

Even thought the main issues are not topics that I want to read about, I did find the book compelling and it drew me along. The characters are believable, so much so that I didn’t like some of them; they are not people I’d want to meet. It was not what I expected from the title or synopsis – and there is nothing supernatural about it. Having said that it is well-written in a conversational style that makes each character easily distinguishable, with a well constructed plot.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin, the publishers for a review copy.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1289 KB
  • Print Length: 342 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0241983355
  • Publisher: Penguin (17 Aug. 2017)
  • My rating: 3.5*

My Friday Post: The Taxidermist’s Daughter

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse ‘“ set in 1912 in a Sussex village where a grisly murder has taken place, this is part ghost story and part psychological thriller.

The Taxidermist's Daughter

Prologue

April 1912

Midnight

In the graveyard of the church of St Peter and St Mary, men gather in silence on the edge of the drowned marshes. Watching, waiting.

A good start I think, definitely full of foreboding.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

From Page 56:

He thought back to the painting on his easel in his studio, to the woman frozen lifeless in time, and realised it was the colour of her skin he’d got wrong. Too pink, no hollows and no shadows. No life in it.

Blurb:

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream…

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years …

What do you think? Would you continue reading?