Aaron Falk series // by Jane Harper

  • The Dry (2016)
  • Force of Nature (2017)

I feel like when  The Dry first came out, I saw it on EVERYONE’S blogs.  As usual, I’m several years behind, but, as frequently happens, it has weirdly worked in my favor as I was able to dive directly into the sequel,  Force of Nature.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these stories, so I’m hoping that Harper has some more adventures for Aaron Falk up her sleeve.

The main character is a law enforcement officer named Aaron Falk.  However, unlike the traditional MC of a detective novel, Falk’s job actually has to do with tracing money – money laundering, embezzling, and the like.  In The Dry, he’s returned to his hometown for the first time since they moved away when he was teen.  The reason for his visit is to attend the funeral of his best friend growing up, Luke.  The reason Luke is dead is because Luke killed his wife, son, and himself.  And the only reason Aaron has returned for the funeral is because Luke’s father sent Aaron a note, telling him he had to be at the funeral, because Aaron lied, and Luke lied.

The pacing in both books is absolutely spot on.  In both cases, the reader is receiving snippets of the back story, while Aaron is making discoveries in the present.  In The Dry, the backstory is about Aaron’s own history, so he does technically know more than the reader, but at the same time the reader slowly realizes how events that happen to us when we are in our mid-teens may not look the same when we revisit them as adults, so even Aaron is learning new pieces of his own past.

In Force of Nature, a group of employees has gone on a team-building retreat, backpacking for a few days.  The group is split between the men and the women, with each group taking a different trail.  When the women’s group emerges from the woods – late, injured, panicked – one of their group is missing.  Again, the pacing is excellent, with the reader slowly learning what happened on the trail, keeping pace with the investigation in the present.

In both books, Australia itself is virtually another character.  In The Dry, the region is in the midst of a terrible drought.  The oppressive heat, the tensions that come with an extended drought in an agricultural community, the isolation of the small town with its small worries and its myriad of interconnections – all weave together to form a backdrop that is almost tangible.  In Force of Nature its the opposite – the claustrophobia of the forest, the cold rain, the mud, the slog, the isolation.  Harper doesn’t spend a lot of time banging on about the weather and the environment – it’s just there, touching everyone and everything.

All in all, The Dry was one of those few instances where I felt like it lived up to the hype.  Both of these were easy 4* reads for me.  In both instances, I felt like the ending was decent but not stunning, which kept them at 4* rather than 4.5*, but they were definitely compulsively readable.  I have Harper’s The Lost Man on my TBR now, and will definitely be on the lookout for any more stories with Aaron Falk at the center.