Short Take

I have been a fan of Jane Harper ever since I read her book The Dry, which also features the character of Aaron Falk. Although Harper has published other books featuring Falk, Exiles felt like the most direct “sequel” to the events that happened in The Dry. I found this book very satisfying. I definitely recommend it for fans of Jane Harper and also for new readers of the author. I suspect once you read one of her books, you’ll want to read more.

Plot Synopsis

Jane Harper writes mystery books set in Australia. She mixes things up from book to book, but she has returned a few times to the character of Aaron Falk, who was featured in a few other books but most notably The Dry.

In this book, we’re back with Falk as he visits with his friend Raco (who was featured heavily in The Dry) and his family for the christening of Raco’s newest child. The christening had been delayed from previous year after the ex-wife of Raco’s brother went missing during the opening night of the town’s festival. Now, a year later, the body still hasn’t been recovered, and the family is anxious to do one last appeal for information. Perhaps someone who attended the festival last year saw something without realizing what they saw at the time.

We meet the various members of Raco’s extended family and friends, including Zara (the daughter of the missing woman) who is obsessed with figuring out what happened to her mother. You see, the facts of the disappearance don’t really add up because Kim (the missing woman) left her infant daughter Zoe behind in a stroller. The father of the baby (who was out to dinner with his parents at the time) is also back in town with Zoe to help with the investigation into the disappearance of his wife.

Along the way, we learn more about the tangled relationships that develop in small towns. All the adult characters (save for Aaron) knew each other while growing up, and these relationships run deep. They can also be complicated, especially the relationship between Charlie (Kim’s ex-husband) and Rohan (Kim’s new husband). Mixed up with this plot is a previous death that occurred in the same location that Kim seems to have disappeared.

That death (an accidental hit and run) that led to the death of a town’s accountant may or may not be a factor in Kim’s disappearance. Are the two deaths related? As Falk helps Zara and Raco answer some of the questions caused by Kim’s death, he gets to know Gemma—a friend of Raco’s who Aaron had met 16 months ago and felt a “spark” with. Gemma is also the wife of the man who was killed in the same location that Kim went missing.

The book moves back and forth in time uncovering bits and pieces of events in the past and the present. As things develop, life gets complicated for Aaron as he begins to get a feeling that all is not as it seems. Aaron also has to deal with his feelings for Gemma and questions what his future might hold.

My Thoughts on Exiles by Jane Harper

Exiles was a super satisfying to read! Not only do you get caught up in finding out what happened to Kim, but you also begin to get invested in Aaron and Gemma’s relationship. As such, this ends up feeling as personal as The Dry. In fact, I would recommend reading The Dry before reading this book to get a full picture of Falk, Falk and Raco’s relationship, and life in a small town.

As with all of Harper’s books, the landscape of Australia feels like a character in and of itself. The land, weather, and geographical features are always big piece of Harper’s books, and this adds to the atmosphere and suspense of her books.

The mystery aspect of the book is interesting, and the resolution was quite satisfying but also emotional. I may have even teared up when we finally discover what happened with Kim’s disappearance. If you’re not familiar with Jane Harper, I highly recommend reading her books. She’s a talented writer whose mysteries always pack an emotional punch.

My thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book.