Publication Date: Feb 6th, 2018 by Flatiron Books
Short Summary: Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Did she purposely disappearance or was it murder? Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?
You may remember that this book was recently one I featured as one of my most anticipated sequels of 2018. I’m starting to dip into some of my 2018 reads and this was just calling to me. I loved The Dry and couldn’t wait to catch up with Aaron Falk. I did, however, read a couple reviews that weren’t all that favorable so I was anxious to see if I agreed with them or not…
The story basically centers around two groups (a men’s and a women’s) employed by the same company who’re sent on a professional team building retreat. The retreat consists of 3 days and nights of hiking and camping in a fairly remote wooded range in Australia. We find out right away that only 4 of the women return and when they do they are hours late and look much worse for the wear. So, the immediate question is…what’s happened to Alice? Regarding the plot, the narrative structure, and the characters involved there honestly wasn’t that much that worked for me and it’s disappointing because I expected to love this.
- The descriptive details for the setting. Jane Harper can write wonderful setting details. While I didn’t find this to be as atmospheric as The Dry, I did feel like I was there in the woods with the cold and rain and darkness
- The short chapters created a very fast reading pace and I was able to read this in one sitting
- Aaron Falk. There’s something about this character that I really like. He’s somewhat of an enigma but just seems like a really good guy. I just wish the author would’ve done more with him in this story. To me, it seemed like he was an after thought and his character didn’t seem to evolve too much in this book.
What didn’t work….
- The entire plot premise that a professional team building company would send inexperienced hikers out with no phones, no walkie talkies, no flares, no emergency provisions whatsoever and then never check to ensure they reached each campsite just made no sense to me and tarnished my ability to believe the story.
- The characters. I felt the group of women were not only unlikeable but also thinly drawn. There were times I couldn’t remember who was who, they didn’t seem to be all that individualistic. And I found hard to care about any of them
- The structure of the narrative. The story is told in present time from Aaron’s perspective as they are investigating and alternates with flashbacks of each day of the women’s journey. This seemed odd to me because we already know what happens so it often seemed unnecessary to retell some parts. For me, opening the book with the ending took away quite a bit of suspense.
- The mystery. I found it to be pretty underwhelming and the red herrings were too obvious in my opinion.
Unfortunately, there was more that didn’t work for me than did in this story and I’m bummed about that because I think Jane Harper is a very talented writer. Maybe it was a case of rushing the second book as others have speculated, I’m not sure. I did enjoy seeing a little spark with Aaron at the end and I will definitely still give the next book in the series a try because I want to see what she does with Aaron’s character moving forward. If you haven’t read The Dry, I do highly recommend that one!
Many thanks to Flatiron Books for my copy