Exiles by Jane Harper



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.


Exiles is the third and last instalment of the Aaron Falk series which follows The Dry and Force of Nature. This time, Falk is taking some personal time to attend the christening of the son of his good friends, Greg and Rita Raco, who have asked him to be godfather. We met Greg and Rita in the first novel when Falk returned to his home town of Kiewarra and Greg was the new police sergeant. Falk has maintained a friendship with the couple and has grown fond of them.

The celebration is bittersweet as it also marks the first anniversary of the disappearance of Greg’s former sister-in-law, Kim Gillespie, who went missing after attending the annual wine festival. The christening had also been set for the previous year but was cancelled due to Kim’s disappearance. When no trace of Kim was found, the general belief was she had committed suicide by throwing herself into the reservoir but no body was ever found. Kim also abandoned her infant daughter in her pram at the festival who was later found by staff. Greg has continued to investigate Kim’s disappearance over the past few months as he believes it was completely out of character for her to leave her child alone and now that Falk is in town, Greg wants him to have a look over his files.

As well as getting involved with Kim’s disappearance, Falk finds himself drawn into the mysterious death of Dean Tozer, a local who died when his car was hit by another and pushed over the reservoir barrier. As it turns out, Falk met Tozer’s widow, Gemma, in Melbourne a few months ago and they had a one night stand but they never kept in touch as the timing wasn’t right for either of them. Meeting Gemma again, Falk realises his feelings for her are as strong as ever but they both have complicated lives and can see no way to continue a long distance relationship. Falk is also drawn to Gemma’s step-son, Joel, who is desperate to find out what really happened to his father and is hoping Falk can shed some light on it.

Exiles is paced far slower than the previous two novels and I have to admit it left me feeling a little dissatisfied as it was not as good as Falk’s previous two outings. There are a lot of characters in this small town who are related to each other in some way and it was hard to keep track of everyone since their lives are so entwined. Greg Raco’s brother, Charlie, who runs the vineyard where Falk is staying, was once married to Kim and they have a teenage daughter, Zara. After Charlie and Kim split up, she married Rohan and had another daughter named Zoe. Then we have Shane, the local football star, whose career ended abruptly due to injury and alcoholism, and who now works with Charlie at the vineyard. Shane is in love with Naomi, Gemma’s close friend, who will be sharing godparent duties with Falk.

Once again, Harper excels at creating a vivid setting for her book and we are introduced to the fictional town of Marralee Valley in South Australia which is renowned for its lush vineyards and annual wine festival. The town sounds very beautiful but there is also significant danger around the reservoir and in one particular clearing where the local teenagers like to hang out. The festival also fascinates and repels at the same time as you are aware of the tragedies that took place near there, yet it is a place where the town enjoys itself.

As Falk attempts to solve both mysteries, he is also on a personal journey that will see him re-evaluate his career and what he wants from life. He is tired of being the outsider and is finally being offered a chance at a real family with Gemma and the numerous Racos. For once, Falk seems to be moving towards something rather than pushing away and is in very real danger of having a happy ending. I’ll miss Falk but looking forward to seeing what Jane Harper has up her sleeve next.