Author: Jane Harper
Published: September 20th 2022
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
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.
With an intriguing and speculative tagline on the cover, I was keen to delve into the latest blockbuster crime mystery novel from Australian powerhouse Jane Harper. A story of dark town secrets, suspect movements, altered appearances, locked truths, murky circumstances and a bevy of questions without clear-cut answers, Exiles is a slow-tempo read.
Exiles sees the welcome return of federal investigator Aaron Falk, who is best known for his policing efforts in Jane Harper’s debut The Dry. In this new chapter from Jane Harper, a crime talks place at a wine country festival. A mother goes missing from this busy community celebration, leaving her baby in her pram alone. As no clear leads or answers to this baffling case arise a year on from this mother’s disappearance, hope begins to fade in finding Kim Gillespie alive. As Kim’s friends and family unite, her loss casts a dark mood over the group. When Aaron Falk observes Kim’s family and community circle, he begins to question their behaviour. Do they know what really happened to Kim and what secrets are they hiding?
I naturally gravitate towards Jane Harper’s work. One of my most anticipated reads of 2022 has been Exiles, a book that seemed to be everything I love in a good Aussie crime novel based on the synopsis. The atmospheric cover also reeled me in and I definitely had some high expectations going into Exiles. I will be upfront and say this review was very challenging to write as I didn’t enjoy Exiles as much as I had hoped.
Firstly, I will say that the setting was one of the reasons why I gave Exiles an extra star. I loved the wine country backdrop. I could easily imagine myself relaxing and kicking back with this little community crew. I felt quite languid while reading this one, it didn’t seem to have the same umph, buzz and urgency as Harper’s previous books. I felt as though I was stuck in first or second gear throughout. Harper does accelerate a bit more towards the final chapters, but in general this is a gentle flicker style read. The policing aspect was just average for me, I kind of expected more from Falk and his company. The mystery was initially intriguing and I was interested to see where it would go, but I lost my way. After putting the book down and attempting it again a couple of weeks later, I got a slight second wind. It was good to see Falk get a shot at some romance in his life and Harper’s focus on his personal life was a good interlude to the developing mystery. With more drama and character leanings that Harper’s previous works (there are quite a few protagonists to follow) Exiles didn’t go into full crime mode. I stuck with it, despite my attention’s dips, lags and resets as I have great faith in Harper’s work. The resolution came and went without much bravado, leaving us to wonder if Falk’s time has reached an end point.
Exiles is a very different Jane Harper book to her previous releases in my eyes. A leisurely read that didn’t set my world on fire, I give three stars to Harper’s fifth publication.
Exiles by Jane Harper was published on 20th September 2022 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Exiles, Jane Harper, visit here.