Force of Nature (Sequel to The Dry) by Jane Harper (Macmillan)
AUSSIE ADULT FICTION
Jane Harper had a killer of a year in 2016 when she released The Dry and won a stack of awards. Thankfully, her fans have not had long to wait to again delve into the world of financial federal agent Aaron Falk with Force of Nature. This time, Falk is called from his home base in Melbourne to the case of a missing woman, Alice Russell, in the Girralang ranges – a day’s drive north. Falk, and his new partner Carmen Cooper, go to investigate because Alice was a whistleblower source in a huge fraud case for them so they suspect foul play may be afoot. What they learn about the business colleagues of Ms Russell who were on a team building retreat with her at the time she went missing starts to signal red flags and the case takes an unexpected turn as they realise Alice had argued with two of the women, as well as having a past connection to another, not to mention the hassles being experienced by her daughter, Margot, back home.
Whereas The Dry made you feel the heat, drought and desperation of Falk’s hometown, Force of Nature is equally brilliant at depicting the isolation, ruggedness and danger of the bush. The multiple viewpoints adds layers and intrigue to the story as we follow Falk and Cooper in real time, then have constant day by day account flashbacks from each of the women over the five days of the business retreat, which cleverly reveal unknown aspects to us the reader, but not to the law enforcement teams. Harper’s excellent eye for detail keeps you immersed in the story and turning the pages every so quickly. The emerging side characters reveal themselves in appropriate and connected ways, whilst the missing woman herself is not seen as some innocent martyr but a single mother with flaws and list of people who might want her out of the picture. The sense of ominous threats from nature and ‘man’ tighten its coil as you read on until the satisfying climax.
Thornhill by Pam Smy – $29.99 (David Fickling Books/Scholastic Australia)
Brian Selznick (Wonderstruck, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Marvels) has often been a favourite of mine when it comes to that particular brand of children’s book that combines beautiful prose and grayscale illustrations to tell a complex story, used respectfully and carefully with a specific narrative intention. Pam Smy’s Thornhill is very much like that; it’s a wonderfully told and strangely eerie story involving two converging tales in two alternating periods: one set at an institute for orphans in 1982 and written in a diary-like format by miserable, shy and mute orphan Mary, teased and tormented by another girl, and the other in 2017 conveyed through illustration about lonely teenager Ella who has moved next door to the abandoned Thornhill Institute and becomes increasingly fascinated by a mysterious girl in the gardens and the mystery surrounding Mary’s death in 1982.
If you inject The Twilight Zone into one of Brian Selznick’s books, you would come to find it has mutated into the fascinating, page-turning horror Thornhill. What I regard Smy highly on the most is her placement and composition of key elements in her illustrations, focusing your attention immediately on the those details so that you can continue turning the page without truly stopping and interrupting the flow of Ella’s experiences around Thornhill. With references to The Secret Garden and involving some creepy dolls, readers in upper primary to early secondary will be hooked by this harrowing and tense ghost story.
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury) $16.99rrp
I picked up this book, without having any knowledge of what it was really about. I’m so glad however, that I did. Moonrise is a moving story, written by multi award winner Sarah Crossan. The book follows Joe Moon who travels from New York to Texas, to reconnect with his older brother Ed, who is on death row. This book however is not just about death, but also love in all its many forms. Crossan’s ability to move between the past and the present is seamless and provides great insight for the reader. I really connected with the characters in the story, a result of intricate and detailed writing. I especially enjoyed reading a novel through the eyes of a male protagonist, something I haven’t done for quite some time. Regardless of his innocence, Ed is an equally complex character, who urges us to think carefully about his situation. Crossan creates engaging social commentary on both the justice system in the US and capital punishment worldwide. This is a great book for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hate U Give. It’s also suitable for anyone who declares we should bring back the death penalty. Sarah Crossan has again delivered us another poignant and engaging novel, very deserving of many accolades.
Nevermoor: Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Hachette) $16.99rrp
New kid series
This. Book. Is. Amazing. I received an advanced reading copy being told that it is expected to be a new upcoming popular series. I could not agree more with this expectation. For fans of the Unfortunate Events and Magisterium series, this book creates a new world that you cannot but help want to be a part of. I am definitely anxiously waiting for my own version of Jupiter North to appear at my house and bring me to the magical place that is Nevermoor.
Morrigan Crow is possibly one of my favourite characters to date. She is naive, brave, sarcastically funny, adventurous, and nervous. A complex character that is easy to support, the 11-year-old grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, even after the final page has been read. Morrigan is a cursed child, the problems of her city are solely blamed on her and her cursed self. This causes it to become difficult for her to connect with the people of her city as well as her own family. But with Eventide coming up and her destined death accompanying it, Morrigan’s adventure is only just starting. In comes Jupiter North, funny, unusual and undoubtedly handsome (or else that’s what I like to think) coming in to save Morrigan and bring her to the Republic, promising her the opportunity to become a part of the exclusive Wunderous Society.
The twists and turns of this novel are incredible. As we witness Morrigan make friend’s, survive the trials, and deal with odious members of society; it is easy to fall in love with the girl and the world around her. I absolutely loved the plot, the world, the characters, and the slow reveal of who the Wundersmith is. A loveable protagonist that has the potential for greatness. This book is not only impossible to put down, but it is impossible to let go of as well. Even as I write this review (just having completed the book), I cannot help but itch for more. I am excitedly waiting for the next book and the continuation of Morrigan’s adventures. 10/10
Best suited for strong readers. 10+