Bonding backfires

Rosalea Ryan | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Nov-2017

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Corporate retreat. It’s a term almost guaranteed to set off a shiver of fear in all but the most upwardly mobile, single-mindedly ambitious go-getting employee.

For accounting clerk Beth McKenzie few things could be less inviting than the prospect of spending four days “team building” in the remote upper reaches of Gippsland with colleagues from BaileyTennants – among them, her twin sister Bree.

Also taking part in the five-woman, five-man orienteering survival exercise is one of Beth’s least favourite managers, Alice Russell, who at the age of 45 rules through intimidation.

Despite her apparently unwavering commitment to the firm, Alice has no desire to be there, either; her attention is several hundred kilometres away, split between a domestic crisis in the suburbs and an ultimatum delivered by the Australian Federal Police.

With tensions already simmering, the two groups set off in mid-winter into the Giralang Ranges, three hours’ drive east of Melbourne – but when the women emerge four days later, cold, hungry, wet and limping, Alice is no longer with them.

Hasn’t she made her own way back to the agreed pickup point, her fellow walkers ask the men. She’s not actually lost or, worse, injured, alone in the bush with dusk descending, is she? 

Unpopular though Alice is, nobody at BaileyTennants really wishes her ill – surely not.

As Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives on the scene he’s barely recovered from a life-threatening event of his own on the opposite side of the state. 

Accompanied by investigative partner Carmen Cooper, Falk is as desperate as anyone to find the missing accountant – but his motivation is not purely concern for her personal safety.

This second instalment in Melbourne journalist-author Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk series is a fitting sequel to her debut novel, The Dry, adroitly juggling two parallel timelines as the disappearance and its aftermath unfold side by side.

– Rosalea Ryan

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