Aaron Falk is back for a third and final time!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 26, 2022
Now that the first book, The Dry, has been made into a movie (which I may have watched three times already 😊), I completely pictured Eric Bana, Keir O’Donnell, and Miranda Tapsell as their respective characters while reading this one.
Beneath the ferris wheel at the Marralee Valley Annual Food and Wine Festival is a pram bay, for attendees to leave their prams, pushchairs, bikes, scooters, etc. But, when the festival closes, there is a single uncollected pram, and on closer inspection a technician discovers six week old Zoe Gillespie sleeping within – her thirty nine year old mother Kim nowhere to be found.
The investigation leads to one of Kim’s shoes being found in the dam filter of the reservoir, the drop overlooking it located within walking distance of the fairground. What happened to Kim? Was it suicide? Murder? Or did Kim simply leave of her own accord? But, why?
Aaron Falk was at the festival that night, visiting Marralee, for Greg Raco’s (more on him later) son’s christening. It’s now a year to the day since Kim disappeared, and Aaron has returned to Marralee for the same christening, which was postponed due to the tragedy, as Kim has close personal ties to Greg’s family.
Neither the police, nor those closest to Kim are any the wiser regarding what happened to her twelve months prior. Opening night of the Food and Wine Festival has rolled around again, and it is hoped that a planned appeal and tribute will refresh the memories of those who attended the previous year, and unearth fresh clues regarding what really happened to Kim Gillespie?
Just to give you a refresher, Aaron Falk first met Greg Raco, and his wife Rita, in The Dry. Raco was (still is) the new police sergeant in Kiewarra (Falk’s hometown) investigating the Hadler murders with Falk unofficially assisting. Rita was pregnant with their first child, Eva. Greg also appeared briefly in the second book – Force of Nature. Exiles is set six years after the events of The Dry, and the setting of Marralee Valley is the small town Greg grew up in. His older brother Charlie still lives in the family cottage there, and has turned the attached land into a successful vineyard, which is where Greg Raco, Rita, their two children, and Aaron Falk stay whenever they visit.
Kim’s disappearance was the main mystery, but there was also an even colder case of a hit and run car accident five years prior, which occurred at the same spot overlooking the reservoir Kim likely jumped from. Both mysteries had me stumped, and also anxious, as like Aaron I completely warmed to Greg Raco’s family and their close knit group of friends, and didn’t want any of them to be involved, but knew that at the very least one of them had to be. That’s the thing about Jane Harper’s books, they never fail to pack an emotional punch. Speaking of emotion, Exiles was very much Aaron Falk’s personal journey to letting go and moving on, which made this conclusion to the trilogy even more of a slow burn than any of her other books. But, if you are as attached to Aaron as I am, you will be rooting for him to find his happy place, and make peace with his past choices.
Marralee Valley, a fictitious small South Australian town in the heart of wine country, is as vivid, detailed and real as I’ve come to expect from Jane Harper, but lacked the harsh climate element this time around. It was hot (they drank a lot of water 😄), but not unbearable – a lush green, peaceful, beautiful piece of paradise, the kind of place where you’d think nothing bad could happen, but does.
Given that each mystery in the Aaron Falk series is different (as is the setting) you could dive into this one without having read the others, and be able to follow it no problem. However, there is an incident that occurred in The Dry that is referred to in this one that I consider a spoiler. Also, because it’s the final book in the trilogy, and as I’ve mentioned above, it does deal with a lot of Aaron’s internal and external struggles in relation to thoughts, feelings, and past and present experiences that were raised in the first two, particularly The Dry. No mystery spoilers for Force of Nature, but FYI it is the only book of Jane Harper’s I rated less than 5 stars – I gave it four. Definitely still worth reading though, and I’m very excited for the movie of it that is currently being filmed and even more excited for Exiles (which hasn’t been confirmed yet, but I’m sure they’ll commit to turning all three into movies).
Exiles is available now in Australia and New Zealand (20th September, 2022), but won’t be released in the US (31st January, 2023) or UK (2nd February, 2023) until next year.
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