Thursday, February 9, 2023

Secrets Surface in a Small Australian Town

Aaron Falk #3
Jane Harper
Flatiron Books
January 31, 2023

I've been waiting patiently (somewhat) for the final entry in Jane Harper's splendid Aaron Falk Trilogy. The trilogy introduced me to Australian crime fiction and was highly atmospheric, packing an emotional punch, and perfectly plotted. From THE DRY, through FORCE OF NATURE, and now EXILES, Jane Harper's books have shown me a new world. Aaron Falk is a detective in the financial crimes division of the Australian Federal Police based in Melbourne. But he comes from the outback town of Kiewarra, as seen in THE DRY. On his consequential visit to his hometown, he formed a friendship with the new Chief of Police, Greg Raco, and his wife, Rita. The Racos have asked him to be their new child's Godfather. The christening will take place in Greg's hometown, Merrilee. The previous year, Falk visited them for the Merrilee Food and Wine Festival, and the christening is taking place the very same weekend. 

The previous year's Festival dealt the Raco extended family a considerable blow. His older brother Charlie's ex-wife, Kim, disappeared from the Festival, leaving her new daughter, Zoe, in a pram, never to be seen again. Her new spouse, Rohan, was having dinner with his parents and was cleared as a suspect. The Racos and their Merrilee friends and family are completely "at sea," saying that Kim would have never left Zoe alone. Charlie and Kim's daughter, Zara, now living with Charlie, and her friend, Joel, are insistent on this. The memories of Kim are close to the surface, especially since her friends had almost lost contact with Kim in the year previous to her disappearance. She had been living in Adelaide, not far away. Tragedy has been no stranger to Merrilee in the past few years. The daughter of the police chief died as a result of an alcohol overdose, and a respected member of the community was killed in a hit-and-run. 

As memories surface, it becomes clear that the secrets of all these events are in the close-knit community. The solution to Kim's disappearance will upend their little paradise. But new connections and a new relationship convince Falk that there are more things in life than policing, and after years of being solitary, he can find a new home. 

Thanks to Net Galley and Flatiron Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

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