“Not everyone leaves by choice…”
The third book in Jane Harper‘s Aaron Falk series, Exiles follows a mother who 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…
Thank you to NetGalley for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I absolutely loved the first book in this series, The Dry, a gripping crime thriller with a beautiful atmosphere and a host of compelling characters. So I was excited to continue the Aaron Falk series and get to know him better. Unfortunately, Force of Nature lacked that same engagement for me. The crime/investigation itself was clever and interesting, but we didn’t get to know Falk any more and I was left underwhelmed with his development.
Sadly, Exiles again has the same issues. If you don’t know who Falk is before reading this book, you’ll be wondering what the hype is with him and what you’ve missed out on, as his character is given absolutely no detail to help you understand who he is and why he’s here. The end does wrap his story up nicely and gives a conclusion that will satisfy fans of the rest of the series. But if you haven’t read book one, I’m not sure you’ll care.
There are a lot of other characters in this instalment, too, which does make it a little confusing at first, especially when some of the names sound so similar. But while you do eventually get to know these characters quite strongly by the end, there wasn’t enough detail at the start to make you understand the impact of this past event or the nature of everyone’s involvement in it to compel you to want to find out more.
And yet again, I didn’t understand Falk’s involvement in it all. Here, he is visiting friends for a Christening. A “rare break” from work. His friends complain that he works too hard, but they all drag him into this investigation anyway. And yes, he is an investigator, but he works in finance. Just like with Force Of Nature, he’s again an outsider doing all the work on a murder investigation. I don’t know why his character couldn’t have just been a detective so that his involvement seemed justified, then it would make sense for him to be at the centre of it all.
Exiles also lacks the beautifully described atmosphere that I’m used to with Harper’s books. Even though there are some memorable settings here with a clifftop lookout, a vineyard and a fairground, I got no sense of the small-town Australian setting, which is what I wanted to be consumed by. The locations and climate normally add so much to Harper’s stories, but nothing stood out for me this time.
I want to be more positive as Harper is one of my favourite authors. But as a fan of the series, this instalment just didn’t deliver anything that I, personally, needed from it. I did really enjoy the final few chapters where the case is resolved nicely, the conclusions are fulfilling, and Falk’s character gets a worthwhile ending. But it’s very easy to lose interest in the first 70% and I’m not sure it will appeal to new readers of Harper’s books.
Exiles by Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #3
Release Date: 2nd February 2023
Print Length: 368 pages
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
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