Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper (Aaron Falk #3)

My Interest

First, thanks to #NetGalley for a free audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Harper has become a “must-listen” author. I like her books on audio to hear them in an Australian accent appropriate to the story. I have enjoyed each of her books. I have dear friends in Australia, so I love getting my hands on books set anywhere even close to where they live. Silly, when you think how big the country is, but I mean well.

Note: I don’t usually review series books–too hard to avoid spoilers. This one, though, came to me via NetGalley, so I am happy to give my review.

The Story

“You see what you expect to see.”

Federal Police agent Aaron Falk is involved with another suspicious death. A new mother leaves her new baby in the stroller in a stroller corral at a festival ride. Her shoe is found later. Her teenage daughter from her first relationship isn’t satisfied with the police outcome. And, what about the boy whose father died in a mysterious way in the same area?

A small town with a typical high school rite of passage–a big boozy party out in the boondocks–just like those held in my hometown or here in my kids adopted hometown. (They went, I couldn’t be bothered). A group of friends, booze, a girl has too much. Fast forward to today and it’s the teenage daughter of the missing mom who is going to party.

The small town also has an annual festival–a big money-maker for small towns the world over I guess. This town, being near vineyards and wineries, gets tourists from all over the country. Did anyone see that mom park her stroller? Or leave the festival? Or be helped to leave…. “You see what you expect to see” Falk reasons with another cop.

What’s the truth? You know my rule–no spoilers here!

But the ending had an element of surprise in addition to the “who-done-it-reveal.” That intrigues me. I want to know what Harper has in mind for this in the future.

My Thoughts

I liked having Aaron back. This was a good mystery for folks like me who don’t read a lot of them or a lot of police procedurals. I’m never good at guessing the outcome of this type book and did not guess this one’s ending.

My Verdict


Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper releases on January 31, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Note: I do not make any money off this blog. The links to Amazon are just for your convenience.

My Reviews of Previous Jane Harper Books:

Aus Reads Month & NovNov Review: What Happened to the Corbett’s (aka The Ordeal) by Nevil Shute


My Interest

I have enjoyed each Nevil Shute book I’ve tried. So, why not another? Plus, he’s an Aussie author and this one was really short (my kindle version was 221 pages–barley over the 200 page limit suggested for Novellas in November, so I am counting it). This book was written in 1938 and published in 1939. It is fiction, but foretells what would happen in the Blitz.

The Story

“‘Home’s where your people are,’ he muttered to himself. “That’s about it.”

Peter and Joan Corbett are in their early 30s, with three young children. Peter is a lawyer in a partnership with one other lawyer. Both he and Joan were privately educated–he at Repton, she at an unnamed boarding school. The live in a newish home, next door to a contractor. They have a live-in nurse for their children and two maids who live out. Like the parents of young children everywhere, they are a bit distracted and not paying as much heed to the news as they should. Peter isn’t even sure which nation they are now at war with–so like today if happened, I’m sure. When war starts with a bombing raid, the Cobetts must deal with their lack of preparation–and the lack of preparation made by others around them.

With the calls from every corner for men to enlist, Peter decides he must see his family to safety first. They endure a few nights in the slit trench he painfully digs, covered by their car. As they sit in the rain on chairs in the mud, Peter hatches a plan to take his family to their yacht moored not too far from their Southampton home [a lot of boats are called “yachts” in the UK–not just the type Aristotle Onassis had] They will stay on it until things are calmer. Now, this is a fairly ordinary boat with one cabin–the baby’s “bed” hangs, if you can imagine, over the toilet! Imagine living one room, on water, during a war with bombs! In the end the family help in a very small scale Dunkirk-like operation.

My Thoughts

Shute uses contrived friendships (oh so convenient to have a builder/contractor next door, a doctor friend in the neighborhood, a friend in the RAF, etc.) to educate Peter and Joan, and hence the readers, on life in wartime. On taking seriously the government’s warnings and preparedness tips. It was a bit heavy handed for today, but it is largely a propaganda piece, albeit one I couldn’t put down.

Tiny Spoiler

“…you leave a mark behind you. A sort of impression. I’d like to think so, because I think we must have left a good one. We’re not famous people, and we’ve not done much. Nobody knows anything about us. But we’ve been so happy. We’ve lived quietly and decently, and done our job. We’ve had kids, too–and good ones.”

At the end, Peter and Joan both reflect and plan for the future. “This is the end of our young married life, Peter. We’ll be middle aged [when the war ends].” But it isn’t all doom and gloom ahead. Joan says “I do want a decent radio. The children are getting old enough to listen to good music now–just a little bit, now and again. I’d like to have a piano.”  Peter thinks that a piano could be out of reach. Joan returns to the radio: “We could have the radio, couldn’t we? Even if we had to put ion the Never-Never?” [payment plan]. I loved this! A man with his “yacht” thinking a piano out of reach for them! I bet after the war, Joan got the radio and Peter got a new boat.

One interesting thing:

Baby Joan (yes, the same name as her mother) was always referred to as “baby”–not “Baby” as in a cute nickname, but “baby” a noun and nearly always given the pronoun “it” which today would shock people. I know in old movies and books we often her Nanny saying that, but today it sounds really awful. Joan does sometimes say “the baby” as in “It’ll be good when things get settled down and we can get some maids again….I’m sick of washing nappies for the baby.” Nonetheless, the Corbett’s were good, loving, caring parents. Peter even cooks! They do go a bit far “afield” getting milk for “baby” [no spoilers]. And while he hides it very well, “[Peter] very much disliked looking after the children” which I thought was hilariously honest. They also just offer random kitchen workers a few coins to watch their children for an hour knowing nothing about the people! Imagine today?

Once again, Shute leaves me desperate for a sequel. I want to know someone took that boat to Dunkirk? Did Peter live through the war? Does their marriage survive? After the war, does Joan get that “one more boy” she mused she’d like to have had to complete their little family? Is there anything left of their nice house in Southampton? Or of Peter’s law office?

This was my second book by Shute in which the main male character’s name was Peter. I wonder if there is a reason for the repetition?

My Verdict


What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (aka The Ordeal ) is $0.99

You can also read this book free on Project Gutenberg’s Canadian site where it is titled The Ordeal

My Reviews of Other Books by Nevil Shute

  1. Pastoral
  2. The Far Country

I’ve also read A Town Like Alice, which is one of my favorite books of all time, but I read it before blogging was invented. It is currently $1.99 for Kindle and worth much, much more!

Aus Reading Month 2022: What I May Read

Brona of This Reading Life–Brona’s Books blog hosts this annual event. I have friends in Australia so I like to be sure I participate in this challenge. For the “other” Aussie reading event–The 2022 Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Booklover Book Reviews, I read and loved Nevil Shute’s Far Country (link is to my review). (I will soon review another of his books, Pastoral, read for a Classics Club Spin but not finished on time. That I didn’t finish on time is in no way a reflection on the book!)

What I am likely to read or listen to for this year’s challenge:

I was able to request the Jane Harper from the library. At some point I acquired the audio of The White Girl–maybe one of those Amazon World Book Day freebies or similar? I can’t remember. It sounds very compelling. Last year I read an Australian classic, My Brilliant Career, so this year I want a contemporary book.

Are you participating in AusReading Month this time? Leave me a comment or a link to your post–I’d love to hear what you hope to read.

Aus Reading Month Review: My Brilliant Career

My Interest

This book has been on my TBR for years. For some reason, I got it into my head that it was huge. It isn’t. The someone (I forgot again to note who) blogged about the author–a woman, writing under a man’s name. That, and the number of pages, got me to boot it to the top of my TBR list since it worked for both Aus Reading Month and for Novellas in November–a different kind of “win-win.”

The Story

Sybylla is a firey, headstrong, Tom boy of the old school who won’t be reformed into a dainty drawing room porcelain doll, just waiting for a marriage proposal. But in Victorian-era Australia, that is what she should want to be and do. When her parents luck changes for the worst, Sybylla is finally rescued by her grandmother who brings her to live at her house with extended family.  Sybylla is afforded opportunities that would otherwise have been denied her. (Once such gives rise to the title phrase.) One opportunity is the very wealthy young man with whom she falls in love. But, surely she’d rather be a writer? Oh, it was confusing for her.

But the real world her parents are inhabiting is not yet done with Sybylla. That is what makes this book so much more interesting than a typical Victorian romance. I cannot write more or it would be a spoiler. 

My Thoughts

The descriptive prose in this book is magnificent. I felt I was THERE where ever Sybylla was at the moment. It was all very real and the later parts of the book were too real. It is justly called a “classic” in every way.

Review: The Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper

My Interest

I’ve enjoyed Jane Harper’s previous books so of course I wanted to read this one! I like listening to the Australian reader, too. I do not read or listen to that many thrillers/mysteries so this was a step out of my routine too.

The Story

A hometown tragedy reasserts itself when Kieran and Mia come home with baby Audrey to help his mother cope with selling her seafront home and care for her husband with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. While there a new tragedy strikes the community. Old rivalries and jealousies flare. Is there a connection between the tragedies?

My Thoughts

This was a good story, but not as good as the other two books by Harper that I’ve read. I found myself getting confused–which might not have happened if I’d read it instead of listening to it. I could have flipped back to a past chapter and sorted it out. It is still a good read by an author I now consider a “must-read.”

My Verdict


The Searches: A Novel by Jane Harper


My reviews of other books by Jane Harper:


Force of Nature




The Dry


Review: The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe for Aus Reading Month

My Interest

I was almost late to the Aus Reads Month party so I knew I had to pick carefully to get it read in time. [I still failed.] I have a couple of friends I could have asked for their own recommendations of what to read from their country, but I felt that was almost a silly question. I imagined myself sputtering to someone requesting a “typical” American novel to read. I dug around on the internet, finding lists of Australia’s best or newest or shortest or longest reads. I looked at the Amazon previews and then chose this collection of short stories that are somewhat related.

The Story

Here is how Amazon describes this collection:

Set among the surf and sandhills of the Australian beach – and the tidal changes of three generations of the Lang family – this bestselling collection of short stories is an Australian classic. The Bodysurfers vividly evokes the beach, with the scent of the suntan oil, the sting of the sun and a lazy sensuality, all the while hinting at a deep undercurrent of suburban malaise.
From first publication, these poignant and seductive stories marked a major change in Australian literature.

Various stories were related, it is true. A few (Body Oil being one) were mostly related. One did not “work” to me (Looking For Malibu). Most told slightly depressing tales of weary people who did not seem real but who were surrounded by often vividly described scenery, scents, or feelings. Many, I’m sure, would earn the sobriquet “gritty” even if no one was killed, overly drunk, or similar at the time of the scene.

Here are two passages that did not leave me depressed or weary:

Just beyond the Gosford exit warm spring whiffs of eucalypt pollen and the fecund muddy combustion of subtropical undergrowth suddenly filled the car with the scents of the holidays. (The Bodysurfers [title story])

The electric cleansing of the surf is astonishing, the cold effervescing over the head and trunk and limbs. And the internal results are a great wonder. At once the spirits lift. There is a grateful pleasure in the last hour or softer December light. The brain sharpens. The body is charged with agility and grubby lethargy is washed away. (The Stingray)

An occasional worthwhile observation helped to move a story along, such as this one in After Noumea:

Brian picked her at once as a nosy bourgeois person.

This was possibly the most astute judgment in the collection.

My Thoughts

The people felt like worn-out factory workers. The place felt worn out. Both of these seem wrong in a post World War II setting in a young country with vast natural resources and gorgeous coastline. Was this intentional? Most of these stories were actually good reading–just not very happy or uplifting. Such stories have their place. They did evoke, I suppose, the time and place of their setting. I could hear and feel the see–just couldn’t get to know the people. I could sense the emotions of the flat, unreal characters which sounds contradictory, but isn’t. The characters lacked a personality but still had emotions. I think that must be a talent for a writer. I imagine he did not want the personalities to overwhelm the stories which were, after all, supposed to be about their time at that place.

The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe

My Verdict


Click here to read my earlier Aus Reading Month post


Review: Force of Nature: A Novel by Jane Harper



My Interest

I loved the first book in this series, The Dry.




The Story

An Aussie corporate retreat’s team-building exercise goes badly wrong. Agent Aaron Falk is brought in to find out what went wrong in the wilderness of a national park. The story is made more interesting by the mean girl dynamics hanging on between two Old Girls of a very posh girls’ boarding school who have endured the school’s year-long outback program together years ago. Now their daughters are at the pricey school. Is all well? How about the family-owned business that brought them here? Or that unsolved murder of years back? Agent Falk has his hands full.

My Thoughts

The narrative barrels along at a good clip, alternating between the events of the team-building exercise and the search for the missing executive. The tension builds as the stories begin to flesh-out. Just like in The Dry, I reached a point in the story where I could not stop listening until I knew the ending! The story artfully twists, turns, dives, and climbs to the conclusion. I did not predict the ending! That’s always the sign of a well-told mystery or thriller.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I listened to the audiobook.


My review of the first book in this series, The Dry by Jane Harper.

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