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by Jane Harper
Flatiron, January 2023
368 pages
ISBN: 1250235359

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Aaron Falk, a federal investigator who previously appeared in THE DRY (2017) and FORCE OF NATURE (2018), makes his third and final appearance. After previously evoking a drought-parched bush town and a damp and mysterious forest, all part of Australia's diverse ecosystems, Falk is now on his way to a vineyard in South Australia's lush wine country. He'd made the trip a year earlier, planning to stand as godfather to his friend Greg Raco's newborn, but the baptism had to be postponed when a woman left her newborn infant in a stroller at the town's annual food and wine festival and vanished. She had been in a long-term relationship with Greg Raco's brother who is caring for their teenaged daughter, but had recently married and started a new family. What would lead her to abandon her infant? What happened to her?

Though a year has passed, and another festival is about to begin, no progress has been made on tracing Kim Gillespie's whereabouts, though the fact she had started taking antidepressants suggested the possibility of suicide, especially after one of her shoes is found in a nearby reservoir. As the family copes with the anniversary of her disappearance, Falk finds himself drawn into the quest to find out what happened.

Readers used to pacey narratives will find the opening chapters require a more relaxed and patient approach as a cast of characters is introduced, slowly revealing interpersonal fractures and stresses in the extended family. While staying at the vineyard, Falk rekindles a relationship with the festival's director, whose husband was killed in a hit and run beside the reservoir just a few years earlier. What really drives his investigation into both deaths is the persistence of two teenagers who lost parents in these tragedies. They want answers.

For those who relish character-driven stories, EXILES provides a deep dive into complex family relationships that are the key to two mysteries. For those who primarily read for plot, there's plenty to disentangle, and a number of judiciously placed red herrings. Just be prepared to slow down and let the story unfold in its own, unhurried time.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, January 2023

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