Kate’s Review: “Exiles”

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Book: “Exiles” by Jane Harper

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, January 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

I will admit that I was a bit shocked when I started to read the description and promotional bits about “Exiles” by Jane Harper and it was referred to as the last Aaron Falk Mystery. I think that part of it is that I’m so used to long running series that end up twenty plus books deep (Hello, Temperance Brennan Series), that when a series that has such critical acclaim and a devoted audience decides to end only a few books in my knee jerk reaction is ‘why?!’ But if this indeed the end, “Exiles” is a great way to say goodbye to a detective that I didn’t realize I would miss until he was leaving.

“Exiles” is a missing person story, with Harper’s investigator Aaron Falk at the helm even though he isn’t really there in a professional capacity. When his friend Raco’s brother’s ex Kim goes missing, and stays missing for a year, Falk finds himself being pulled into the question of what happened to Kim, who may have seen her the night she disappeared during a small town festival and left her baby alone in a carriage in a sea of people, and who may know something that isn’t being said. I liked that Falk was more drawn into this final mystery not because of his profession, but because of his loyalty to Raco, and the connection he has to a family that hasn’t gotten a lot of answers. I also liked Aaron slowly getting to know a family friend named Gwen, and starting to realize that perhaps he wants a more quiet life with people that he cares about surrounding him. It’s funny because it’s not like Falk is a character that I am absolutely obsessed with, and I feel like he is a bit of a conduit to tell other broader stories, but I liked his journey in this one and how it ultimately shakes out for him.

The mystery itself it fairly straight forward, and while I kind of had a good gut feeling as to what had happened, I liked the slow and steady pace Harper took with it. Her mysteries always feel in complete control, and never feel like they tread towards melodrama or the like. I enjoyed seeing Falk have to piece together not only the mystery of what happened to Kim the night she disappeared, but also what other circumstances and moments in her life may have played a part in her ultimate disappearance. But I also liked the additional, potential connection to another unsolved crime in the community, in which a man was the victim of a hit and run (and it just so happens that Gwen is that man’s widow). Harper is deliberate and very quiet in her mystery weaving, but it all comes together very well.

And finally, I just like the way that Harper writes the people in this story. I got a good sense for everyone, whether it’s old familiar characters or brand new ones. They all feel like well rounded people, and while some may be hiding things or may be serving as narrative misdirections they all fit in well and aren’t completely obvious as to how they all fit into the broader mystery at hand. She just knows how to create a believable community and cast.

“Exiles” is an introspective and quiet but engaging mystery. If this is, indeed, the last book with Aaron Falk, I’m glad that his trilogy ended on a high note.

Rating 8: A solid mystery, an enjoyable cast, and a nice swan song for a literary detective!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Exiles” is included on the Goodreads list “Most Anticipated Reads of 2023”.

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