Force of Nature by Jane Harper

force“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.”(From the book jacket)
The men and women are separated and they are meant to come of the wilderness at the same meet up point. This is supposed to be a team-building event with the Bailey’s company and I can say for sure, I’m certainly glad I have never been forced to participate in such an exercise. The women are so very different from one another, some with secrets and some vying for the alpha role once they are lost.

Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.”

Alice was a real can of worms. I did not have this figured out early at all so this was quite a good read for me.  On their own in the bushland it’s easy to panic. “It’s the panic that gets you. Makes it hard to trust what you’re seeing.

The weather plays a big part in this story. It’s freezing cold, it rains, it makes it miserable for search parties looking for Alice. The isolation the women feel is clearly conveyed as you read about their part of the story.

Jill sometimes thought that in another time and place, she and Alice might have been friends. At other times, she thought not. Being around Alice was like owning an aggressive breed of dog. Loyal when it suited, but you had to stay on your toes.”

Food and wine weren’t mentioned much but there was this:
Beef stew made by the campfire. “A kookaburra perched nearby, watching Beth with her black eyes. Beth picked up a strip of beef from one of the abandoned packets and tossed it toward the bird, who scooped it up with the tip of her beak.”
I didn’t know they ate meat!

Aaron made dinner for Carmen. Spaghetti Bolognese and red wine. Sauce was from scratch too. So I had thought of making the spaghetti dish but we had Linguine Pompeii so, that’s the representative dish.

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This is the second book in the series starring Federal Agent Aaron Falk and I sincerely hope there will be many more stories to follow. He’s a law enforcement with the specialty in financial crimes.

He used to be SWAT, a bad ass cop who busted in and arrested the bad guys. One time his team went in and a malnourished old man was sitting in a tattered chair. There was graffiti on his walls, there was a drug kitchen set up and thugs living in his home. The man thought one of the criminals was his grandson. Dementia was setting in and these guys took full advantage of it.  Aaron realized later all this could have been caught with a look at his financial records, bank statements and charges.

It goes way beyond that too – follow the money trail and you find more than small drug operations. Prostitution, pornography, large scale drug operations. Follow the money. Falk was following up on contracts Alice was meant to get from the company.

I liked The Dry better than this one but I will happily read another starring Federal Agent Falk.

Linking with Heather at Spirit Blog for the July Foodie Reads

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The Dry by Jane Harper

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The Dry.  It starts with a funeral and a mystery of how Aaron Falk is connected to the deceased.  Three coffins are displayed in the front of the church.  Lying dead is Aaron’s friend Luke along with Luke’s wife and young son, Karen and Billy.   Luke and his family were murdered and it looks like it was murder-suicide.  Luke was found with half his head blown off, his shotgun next to him in his truck.  His wife and son were also shot but the baby, Charlotte, was left untouched. Is this situation what it appears or is there another explanation and motive?

As Aaron Falk stands against the wall in the church, some of the close knit community give him hard looks and I’m immediately hooked to know the backstory. Aaron is now a federal police officer, one who investigates financial crimes.  Aaron and his father were basically run out of the community almost 20 years ago as it was suspected one (or both) had something to do with a young woman’s death.

Aaron didn’t come back just to pay respects to his friend but because Luke’s father summoned him with a message. “Luke lied. You lied.” This is in reference to their alibi the day Ellie Deacon was found dead.

So you see, there are two stories intertwined in this mystery.  Luke and his family and young Ellie Deacon.  Aaron Falk was meant to stay only 24 hours, enough time to see his friend buried and head back to Melbourne but Luke’s father implores him to look into his son’s suicide and murder. Even though 20 years have passed since Ellie was found dead it seems as if it happened only a week ago, as far as some townspeople are concerned.  These mysteries dovetail into a satisfying end, in my opinion.  I’m a big fan of series so I will add this to the series I plan to immerse myself into this coming year.

The writing was very detailed, I could immerse myself into the story and see what was being described.  The author painted a picture of the harsh environment and climate, the relationships both warm and those tense.  So many passages I liked in this book.

“City people wanted to move to the country but weren’t prepared to look out and not see another soul between them and the horizon.”

“He could understand them seeking out the idyllic country life style; a lot of people did.  The idea had an enticing wholesome glow when it was considered from the back of a traffic jam or while crowed into a gardenless apartment.  They all had the same visions of breathing fresh., clean air and knowing their neighbors. The kids would eat homegrown veggies and learn the value of an honest day’s work.

But on arrival, as the empty moving truck disappears, they gazed around and were always taken aback by the crushing vastness of the open land.  The space was the thing that hit them first, there was so much of it.”

Very little food offerings but it wasn’t that sort of book.  I did note sparkling wine and a lamb casserole.  Rita, the policeman’s wife, prepared a feast for Aaron Falk and her husband.  “A rich concoction of tomatoes and eggplant and spicy sausage washed down with a decent Shiraz.”
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Eggplant and Penne

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups cubed peeled eggplant
1/2 pound bulk pork breakfast sausage OR TVP ( Textured Vegetable Protein, like mince)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook eggplant, sausage, and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place pasta in a large bowl.   Add tomato mixture, cheese, and parsley; toss well.

This is my first book completed for the Aussie Author Challenge. It satisfies the category of both female author and new author, but I have plans for another new author very soon.

Also linking up with Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif Travel the World and Heather for the March Foodies Read 2018.

Aussie Author Challenge 2018

Years back I was on a kick reading just about anything I could about Australia.  I read travel guides, novels set in Australia, non fiction from Aussie authors….I couldn’t get enough. This was before the internet made it’s way in our home so it was all a personal agenda, no challenges to sign up for.

Jo at Booklover Book Reviews is hosting a book challenge which is right up my alley. I will start slowly and sign up for the Wallaby level.

WALLABY
Read and review 3 titles written by Australian authors, of which at least 1 of those authors are female, at least 1 of those authors are male, and at least 1 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, any genre.

My planned books are The Dry by Jane Harper, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.

 

As it often is with well laid plans, this list could change or I may read more books than intended. I still plan to read an occasional book from my BBC Culture Books Project (see tab at the top) but that will be an ongoing project, something I will work on here and there.

If the Aussie Author Challenge is something you think you would enjoy it’s certainly not too late to sign up.  Check out the signup HERE.

AussieAuthor