Review: Exiles by Jane Harper

I’m a big Jane Harper fan, so I was thrilled to pick up her new book on NetGalley.  Harper writes mysteries set in remote parts of Australia. In this third book of the Aaron Falk series, investigator Falk is visiting friends in the fictional Marralee Valley, in Southern Australia’s wine country.  I’ve actually been to Adelaide and the wine was amazing, plus I loved every part of Australia, so I love revisiting it through Harper’s books.

For some reason I haven’t read the second in the Falk series, an oversight on my part, but I loved her non-series books, especially The Lost Man. What makes Harper’s books so great is that relationships are at the heart of her stories. She explores past and current traumas, addictions, abuses, and other types of malice. Her books aren’t cozy, if that’s what you’re looking for.  And yet, she creates characters you’ll really feel for.

Another thing I love about her books is that the setting always plays a role in the mystery itself, and this book was similar. The environment itself can actually kill you, which is true everywhere but seems particularly true of Australia

Exiles is a bit unique in that it explores a disappearance that occurred one year ago. The small town of Marralee is still reeling from the disappearance and possible suicide of one of its own, Kim Gillespie. Gillespie moved away and got married, but a year ago she returned with her husband and six week old daughter, and on the first night of the region’s annual Food and Wine Festival, she carefully left her baby in the stroller area of the festival grounds and was never seen again. 

Aaron Falk is returning to visit his friends the Racos for their baby’s christening. Charlie Raco was Kim’s first love and the father of her teenage daughter Zara.The family is still devastated; they think Kim abandoned her family due to mental health issues and post-partum. They haven’t given up hope that someone might remember seeing something at the Festival last year, so one year later they’ve organized a rally. 

A recurring theme in this book, as indicated by the title, is the idea of feeling separated from one’s home and family. The characters, including Aaron Falk, are deeply connected to each other, but also feel isolated by various family conflicts. In this very small town there are numerous intersecting plot lines. What I like about Harper’s books is she slowly builds her story, and by the end you can see clearly how the clues add up. Some mystery writers like to throw around a lot of red herrings but Harper tends to leave you mostly in the dark, uncovering a little at a time, until she explains how it all went down. 

I’d recommend Harper to fans of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, for the complexity and dark undercurrents of her books. French also tends to give her detectives a personal role in the story, not just having them be neutral observers.  And similarly, setting is pretty important in the French novels I’ve read. On the other hand, Falk and the other investigators are more competent and a whole less compromised than the investigators in the Dublin Murder series (something about French’s books I find a bit maddening). Harper also writes a tighter story.

I’ll be going back and picking up book #2 in the series, Force of Nature. Thanks to NetGalley and publisher Flatiron Books (Macmillan) for this advanced review copy. Exiles publishes in the U.S. on January 31, 2023. 

  2 comments for “Review: Exiles by Jane Harper

  1. January 31, 2023 at 11:13 am

    I’ve been seeing great reviews for this one! I was thinking I’d need to read #2 first, but it sounds like I can read this one even without going in order. Thanks for shairng!

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