Books & Literature

Book Review: Exiles, by Jane Harper

THRILLER: 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.

A murder mystery that will keep you turning the next page right up till the very end.

A great story with a satisfying ending is such a joy and Jane Harper has given us just that with her latest book, Exiles.

Harper has, rightly so, become the queen of Australian detective fiction. She is the recipient of many awards. Her first book, The Dry became a major motion picture starring Eric Bana, while a movie adapted from her second book, Force of Nature, is being filmed at the moment.  Harper lives in Melbourne with her family and is able to showcase the beauty of the Australian country in her stories.

Aaron Falk, an Australian Federal Officer, once again returns in a new book after giving us an insight into his very clever mind in The Dry and Force of Nature. There was a brief hiatus with The Lost Man and The Survivors, but fans of Aaron Falk will be pleased with his return.  

Exiles is set in a South Australian country town where grape growing and wine making are the main occupations. The Marralee Valley Annual Food and Wine Festival showcases the local produce and Falk has arrived to be the godfather of his friend Raco’s son, Henry. Arriving on the opening day of the wine festival, he discovers there are unsolved mysteries in the town that are not allowing people to move on. The year before, a mother had gone missing, leaving her baby in a pram at the festival, and six years earlier, a dad had been killed by a hit-and-run driver. The mother’s daughter Zara and the man’s son Joel have banded together to try and get some answers.

As readers, we are taken on a journey into the past, reliving events and trying to piece it all together. We are given small clues along the way, but it is the mind of Falk that leads us in the right direction. His little niggly feelings of something he cannot quite put his finger on encourage us to also look at the facts in a different way.

Falk is thoughtful, has a high moral compass, and oozes trustworthiness. He still carries his memories of growing up in a small country town and struggles with forgiving himself.

Harper is able to create a strong sense of place. In her other novels, she has moved the reader from a small drought-stricken town to forests to the beach, and now we arrive in wine country, with each setting skilfully realised. As readers, we are able to be fully immersed in the story and imagine both the present and the past.

The feeling of family and love in all its messiness is an integral part of the story and Falk is swept along with them in all their complexities.

We are privy to underlying tensions, past relationships and the jealousies that ensue in this story, which is more a mystery than a thriller. The memories of those who were there are flawed and they must all be unravelled and put back together for Falk to solve the mysteries.  

Exiles is a highly recommended read for many reasons. Not only does it evoke wonderful pictures of this amazing country and give us well-rounded believable characters with all their flaws, it is also well written and difficult to put down. Most importantly, it’s just a great story.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: September 2022
RRP: $32.99

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