Exiles by Jane Harper – review

Published by Pan Macmillan

Publication date – 2 February 2023

Source – review copy

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. . .

One year ago Kim Gillespie disappears at a local food and wine festival. She leaves behind a white trainer at a local reservoir and her 6 week old baby, wrapped in blanket in her pram. Now a year later, the Raco family are gathering for the delayed christening of the latest addition. Zara Raco, Kim’s daughter is sure that there is more to her mother’s disappearance than first seems. Aaron Falk, godfather to be, begins to suspect she may be right.

This is very much more of a character piece than a mystery. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a mystery, there’s two in fact, but the book also focusses more on Falk and his interactions with the Raco family. He addresses his relationship with his father, which he thinks of as strained. He faces his own prejudices to small towns and his romantic future. There are no big action scenes, or shocking outbursts. This is very much more a contemplative, quiet novel, which perhaps reflects some crimes. The book dwells more on the aftermath of a traumatic event, and how it can affect families and communities in different ways.

As Falk looks at what he remembers from the night Kim disappeared, and as he speaks to others involved, he begins to release that things might not be as they seem. But what did happen? Alarm bells, faint at first begin to ring, as they do when he finds out more about the hit and run accident that killed local Dean Tozer a few years before. His curiosity in that regard is more than fuelled by his romantic interest in Gemma Tozer, Dean’s widow. Whilst the two incidents may not be linked, they both cast shadows over the town and the lives of those left behind.

The ending when it arrives is not loud. It is quietly revealed, perhaps more devastating as a result. It is perhaps all the more tragic and impactful for it.

Now there will be some who don’t enjoy this as much as Aaron Falk’s other outings and I can perhaps see why. As I mentioned, there are no dramatic scenes, no points of danger for Aaron to extricate himself from. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. Very much. I loved the sense of place, the small town feel, the setting of the food and drink festival and the beautiful scenery. I enjoyed seeing Falk take a step back from the frenetic pace of his work, to see him become part of a noisy family, loved by his friends.  I was in the mood, There is the sense of a different future for Falk. The ultimate ending is left ambiguous, which I liked. Jane Harper has left the door ajar, rather than closed.

Another welcome addition to the Australian Noir scene. I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful, quietly moving novel.


You can buy your copy here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a little money should you buy through it. You can also buy Exiles from your local independent bookshop).

11 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    This is a selling point for me: ‘there are no dramatic scenes, no points of danger for Aaron to extricate himself from’ – sometimes you need to focus on atmosphere, relationships, the quieter side of things, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I completely agree. Sometimes books where not much “happens” are the ones I enjoy the most. Definitely tends to be a mood thing though. Donna Leon’s Brunetti series is one I read for the characters as much as the actual mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. MarinaSofia says:

        Same with the Bruno Chief of Police series by Martin Walker, set in SW of France. I just read it for the recipes and glimpses of French village life, when I get very homesick for my life there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. janetemson says:

        I’ve not read that series. I shall have to get the first book.


      3. MarinaSofia says:

        It’s great fun!


  2. JacquiWine says:

    A friend chose Jane Harper’s The Dry for our book group a few years ago, so I’ll mention this new one to her. Good to hear you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I hope she enjoys it if she reads it.


  3. Good review. I read it from NetGalley & reviewed it. The end …..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I enjoyed the end, it felt right for the characters and the story if you know what I mean.


  4. Sounds like my kind of thing. I love a slow burn.


  5. BookerTalk says:

    I’ve read two of her books and both seem very character driven and also strong on setting and atmosphere. It’s a relief to find a thoughtful crime novel – too often the authors just stuff their story with dramatic scenes and forget to develop the characters


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