All good things must come to an end, and much to the chagrin of Aaron Falk fans worldwide, that includes Jane Harper’s mystery series starring the Australian federal investigator.
2017’s The Dry, set in a small drought-stricken town, launched Harper’s career as an internationally bestselling author. (It also spawned a hit film adaptation starring Eric Bana.) Next, Falk hiked into a wilderness retreat in 2018’s Force of Nature to solve another murder. And now, Harper is bringing back the talented investigator for his final turn. The cerebral, character-driven Exiles is set in South Australia’s verdant wine country, where natural beauty contrasts with psychological darkness.
Readers will relish joining godfather-to-be Falk in the fictional Marralee Valley for the christening of baby Henry, son of Falk’s good friends Greg (a police sergeant) and Rita Raco. The Raco family is staying at a vineyard run by Greg’s brother, Charlie, but their celebratory mood is overlaid with grief at what happened a year ago, when Kim Gillespie—Charlie’s ex-partner and mother of their teen daughter, Zara—disappeared from the Marralee Valley Annual Food and Wine Festival, abandoning her infant daughter, Zoe, in her stroller.
From Kim’s new husband to locals who had known her since childhood, no one has any insight about what befell Kim during the festival. Was she murdered? Did she kill herself by jumping into the nearby reservoir? Or did she decide to disappear? Kim’s body was never found, and Zara cannot accept that Kim chose to leave or take her own life. Falk and Greg can’t let it go either; although the official conclusion was suicide, something nudges at Falk’s subconscious, a “translucent shimmer of a thought hovering in the distance, dissolving and reappearing without warning.”
Another unresolved crime resurfaces as well, a fatal hit-and-run from six years earlier at the very spot Kim allegedly jumped from. The victim was the husband of Gemma, the festival’s director and a woman Falk finds captivating. In Harper’s hands, Gemma and Falk’s dynamic is a compelling mystery unto itself: Might the devoted detective actually be considering a different way of life?
Falk is nothing if not dogged, and as he ponders the reservoir’s unknowable depths, he closely observes the tightknit community, teasing out revelations about complicated relationships and long-held secrets, the tension ever building as he gets closer to important truths about the crimes—but also about himself. Harper’s lyrically written, immersive and slow-burning mystery serves as a powerful send-off for a beloved character.