Excerpt from Exiles by Jane Harper, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Aaron Falk Mystery #3

by Jane Harper

Exiles by Jane Harper X
Exiles by Jane Harper
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 352 pages

    Feb 6, 2024, 368 pages


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Someone else was already there.

Aaron Falk felt faintly, if unreasonably, annoyed as he pulled up next to the other car. The turnoff had been as hard to spot as he'd remembered, almost swallowed by the bushland towering over both sides of the road. It was so well concealed, in fact, that Falk had blithely assumed that what was waiting at the other end of the track would be his alone. Not so, he could see now as he touched the brake and suppressed a sigh.

Falk hadn't been alone there last year, either. Greg Raco had been in the passenger seat then, Falk following his friend's directions as they neared the end of their eight-hour drive. Raco had ignored the sat nav, especially after they'd crossed the Victorian border into South Australia. His high spirits had been infectious and they'd chewed through the kilometers, taking turns trading news and picking the music. Raco's newborn son was being christened that weekend, in the same church where Raco and his brothers had been themselves several decades earlier. His wife and two kids had already made the trip and were waiting at the other end, but Raco's sergeant duties had held him back. He was clearly keen to be reunited with them, so Falk had been surprised when he'd suddenly leaned forward in the passenger seat, peering at the empty road and pointing to a patch of trees. "You see that break ahead? Turn there."

They had still been a good thirty minutes out of town and Falk could see nothing. The stretch of bushland had looked identical to the rest lining the route. "Where?"

"There, mate."

Falk had still missed it, and had had to illegally reverse several meters before he saw the single-lane track. He'd eyed his car's suspension.

"What's at the other end?"

"Quick detour." Raco had grinned. "Trust me. It's worth it."

He'd been right. It had been worth the stop, both then and now.

With no Raco beside him this year, Falk had slowed to an almost crawl and still managed to slide past the turnoff. He'd caught it in his rearview mirror and, again reversing farther than ideal even on a clear road, had bumped up the track that looked like it led exactly nowhere. At the end was a small clearing and one other car.

Falk came to a stop and switched off the engine. He sat for a moment, staring ahead to where the heavy bushland parted. The sky was a bright dome, glowing with the vibrant blue of spring. Nestled below was an intricate patchwork of greens that made up the Marralee Valley. Falk had felt last year that the view had been all the more beautiful for being so unexpected. But now, lit up by the late-afternoon sun, it was even better than he'd remembered, if anything.

He climbed out of his car and stretched, the movement stirring the owner of the other vehicle. The man was standing a sensible distance from the lookout's wooden safety rail. He was also staring out at the view, but his arms were crossed in a way that suggested he was taking in none of it. A child's sippy cup dangled from one hand and, behind him, a sturdy toddler sat straight-legged on the wooden picnic table, scattering a box of sultanas across the battered surface. At the sound of Falk's car door slamming, the man unfolded his arms and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He turned and handed the cup to the toddler.

It was the husband.

The recognition came to Falk all at once, followed by a jolt as he realized the little girl now smashing a fistful of dried fruit toward her mouth must be Zoe Gillespie, who up until this moment had remained frozen in his mind at six weeks old.

The man nodded at Falk and as his daughter swallowed her last mouthful, he hoisted her up and carried her to their car. He seemed to sense he'd been recognized, and his body language didn't invite questions or conversation. Fair enough, really, Falk thought. The bloke would have had plenty of questions thrown his way at the time. The husbands always did.

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Excerpted from Exiles by Jane Harper. Copyright © 2023 by Jane Harper. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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