ARC Review: Aaron Falk #3

Exiles by Jane Harper

Publication Date: January 31, 2023

Summary from NetGalley:

Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is on his way to a small town deep in Southern Australian wine country for the christening of an old friend’s baby. But mystery follows him, even on vacation.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Kim Gillespie’s disappearance. One year ago, at a busy town festival on a warm spring night, Kim safely tucked her sleeping baby into her stroller, then vanished into the crowd. No one has seen her since. When Kim’s older daughter makes a plea for anyone with information about her missing mom to come forward, Falk and his old buddy Raco can’t leave the case alone.

As Falk soaks up life in the lush valley, he is welcomed into the tight-knit circle of Kim’s friends and loved ones. But the group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, the missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge. What would make a mother abandon her child? What happened to Kim Gillespie?

ARC provided by Flatiron Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

I went into this book knowing it was the third in a series in which I had not read the first two, but what I didn’t know was that it was going to be the final book. But you know what? It really didn’t matter that much in my enjoyment of the story. I really liked the characters and the two mysteries were very well done.

The majority of the book is told through Aaron Falk’s viewpoint, with two chapters from other character’s points of view. We really get to know Aaron quite well from his inner dialogue and how he interacts with the other characters around him. I really like Aaron and how he methodically thought through the events that led up to the disappearance of Kim Gillespie. I also liked how determined he was to solve the other local mystery of the hit and run of the husband of his love interest. Both mysteries were very well done, and even though the clues are all there you don’t necessarily see the big picture until the end.

There is a love story interwoven into the main mystery plots. I really liked the mature way the story of Aaron and Gemma developed. They discuss their relationship in very grown up terms and the ins and outs of how it could work or not. Aaron’s own past as well as Gemma’s play into this immensely, both of them having demons that need to be tamed before the relationship can grow.

The setting of a small town in the Australian outback was very well done. I love that a small town almost anywhere can feel familiar, with everyone knowing everyone else’s business. The plot does tend to be a bit slow, but it is steady and strangely intriguing and hard to put down. The three timelines are a bit hard to keep track of, but it really did work for this mystery.

I enjoyed this final installment of the series so much that I am pretty certain I will read the first two books at some point. I might then reread this one just to see how well Aaron’s character developed over the series. The ending was slightly open ended enough that if the author ever feels the need to revisit Aaron and have another mystery for him, I and I am sure his many fans, would certainly be delighted.

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