Exiles by Jane Harper (Macmillan £16.99, 432pp)


by Jane Harper (Macmillan £16.99, 432pp) 

In her fifth novel, the mistress of Australian noir brings back the character that established her reputation: the dogged federal tax investigator Aaron Falk, who first appeared in her outstanding debut The Dry six years ago. 

Once again, Falk finds himself in a small rural community in the South Australian Outback, and once again drawn into examining something far more frightening than tax evasion. 

One year ago, a baby was left by her mother in her pram next to the big wheel at the funfair for the town’s annual wine festival. 

But the mother never returned to claim her daughter, to the astonishment of the close-knit community. 

As Falk begins to ask questions, it emerges that all is not as good-natured as it might appear. 

Gradually, the secrets and lies come to the surface — everyone has a private axe to grind. Atmospheric, beautifully observed and fluently written, this is Harper back at her very best. 

The Dead of Winter by Stuart MacBride (Bantam £20, 352pp)

The Dead of Winter 

by Stuart MacBride (Bantam £20, 352pp) 

MacBride is one of this country’s finest crime writers, but he is no exponent of ‘cosy’ crime, as he demonstrates here with this fierce, dark tale of a young detective delivering a prisoner to a village in the Scottish Highlands to spend his last days. 

DC Edward Reekie is accompanied by his boss, DI Victoria Montgomery-Porter — known as Bigtoria — on the trip to Glenfarach, hidden in the Cairngorm Mountains. 

But the village is not the idyll it appears, for it is home to 200 violent and dangerous prisoners, including gangsters, drug dealers and paedophiles, all of whom wear electronic tags. 

No sooner have the pair arrived than a former Met Police officer and convicted paedophile is found dead, tied to a table. A blizzard develops while the officers are struggling to understand how to proceed, cutting the village off from the outside world. Will there be more killings? 

Written in MacBride’s familiar tongue-in-cheek style, it fizzes from every page. 

The Broken Afternoon by Simon Mason (Riverrun £16.99, 352pp)

The Broken Afternoon 

by Simon Mason (Riverrun £16.99, 352pp) 

Single father-of-one DI Ryan Wilkins — an Oxford detective with criminal connections and anger management issues — first appeared in Mason’s striking debut A Killing in November last year. 

Now he has been dishonourably discharged and is forced to look on while his former partner, DI Ray Wilkins, who is everything that Ryan is not — a Balliol College graduate with a smooth style — investigates the disappearance of a fouryear-old girl from her nursery school in an affluent Oxford suburb when her mother was just yards away. 

The irascible Ryan is offered reinstatement by Thames Valley Police, providing he keeps his temper under control, but that is asking a great deal as he hates injustice and shows it — like Inspector Morse on steroids. 

But he is also a remarkable detective with a rare insight into how the minds of villains actually work, and he uses it to unmask the ugly truths that lie beneath the dreaming spires. A welcome return for an unforgettable, nuanced character. 

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