Source: Review copy
Publication: 2 February 2023 from MacMillan
My thanks to Laura Sherlock and Pan MacMillan for an early copy for review
A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.
Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.
A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.
Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.
As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.
Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth…
I don’t tend to take characters away with me when I have finished reading, but my goodness I make an exception for Aaron Falk. He’s the perfect man; intuitive, empathetic, a perfect gentleman. He is also romantic, in good physical shape and best of all he’s a terrific listener with a thoughtful inquisitiveness.
It is this last quality that makes him a great investigator. He knows when something isn’t quite right and he lets it simmer in his mind until he realises what it is that has disturbed his mind’s peace. In Exiles, Falk is taking a break from his all-consuming job as a financial investigator with the Australian Federal Police has travelled to Marralee, in the heart of South Australian wine country for the christening of Henry, the son of his friend and police colleague Greg Raco. Aaron is a godparent. The christening is due to take place during the annual food and wine festival. It should have happened a year ago, but was postponed when Kim, the ex-wife of Greg’s brother Charlie, disappeared. She had taken her young baby Zoe to the festival in the hopes of seeing her daughter Zara there. Kim was never seen again and young Zoe was found safe and sound, tucked up in her pram at the festival.
Now Henry’s christening is scheduled to take place and Kim’s daughter Zara is taking the opportunity to jog people’s memories by distributing fliers at the festival and making an appeal for information in the hope that new information will be forthcoming that will help lead to a better idea of what happened to her mother.
As ever, Jane Harper creates a beautifully observed picture of Marralee and the beautiful wine growing countryside which exudes a beauty and a peacefulness that is at odds with the mysteries in this book. I say mysteries because there are two. The disappearance of Kim is the first, but there is also a cold case – that of a hit and run driver who killed a local accountant, leaving behind a widow and her young son.
Marralee is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and so there are theories abounding, not least that Kim, who did suffer from depressive episodes has taken her own life. Zara though is adamant her mother would never have left Zoe alone.
Falk can see the sense in that, and he’s also inclined to believe the young man who was staffing one of the exits – the one that Kim is supposed to have disappeared through. Joel says he didn’t see her and Falk thinks he has good reasons to have been paying attention.
Jane Harper paints a fabulous picture of a bonded community in a lovely part of the country where life is lived at a relaxed pace and quality of life is what comes first. Her plot is multi-layered and Falk finds himself investigating two historical incidents as his minds slowly works through what it is he is seeing that does not quite add up.
Jane Harper’s characters are so vivid and well-drawn you can visualise them and there’s a sense of emotional peace that exudes from this book. This is no fast-paced thriller, but instead it is a beautifully judged slow burn of a book that carries you with it and delivers its answers in a way that leaves you fully engaged if a little sad.
This is, it seems, the last Aaron Falk book, though Harper has clearly left the door open should she change her mind. But if it is the last book, she has left loyal fans with an ending that certainly satisfies. But Aaron, I am going to miss you.
Bookshop.org Waterstones Hive Stores
Jane Harper is the author of four internationally bestselling Australian mysteries, including The Dry. Her books are published in 40 territories and have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year and the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year. The 2021 movie adaptation of The Dry, starring Eric Bana, is one of the highest grossing Australian films of all time. Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years in both Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne with her husband, daughter and son.
2 thoughts on “Exiles by Jane Harper @janeharperautho @panmacmillan @laurasherlock21”
Wonderful review, Mary. I’ll be sad too if it’s the last we see of Aaron Falk.
Thanks Cathy. Yes, I hope she comes back to him one day..