Everything but the Truth – Gillian McAllister

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It all started with the email. It came through to her boyfriend’s iPad in the middle of the night. Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack, and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him. But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment, or the chain of events it has set in motion. Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

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I loved Everything but the Truth . It gently sucked me in and then ….. wow! Secrets, lies, suspicion, obsession, truth(?)

Rachel is expecting Jack’s baby. She’s three months pregnant. She hasn’t known him long but she loves him. He’s a travel writer for a magazine. They don’t live together (yet). Jack lives with his cat in a house his parents had bought for him. Although they have been together seven months Rachel has still never met any of his friends.

It’s a lovely start to the story. Rachel is the narrator and tells us about Jack. You can tell she loves him. He sounds like a nice guy, a gentle soul with a few endearing traits.

And then she saw that email on Jack’s iPad in the middle of the night – just the notification, just enough to nudge her curiosity. Saw him dismiss the notification and when she casually mentioned that she thought he might have received an email he said ‘No, no,’ and changed the subject.

Then when she finally gets to meet his friends in Oban. she’s confused that they call him JD when his name is Jack Ross. She asks Jack why and he gives an explanation but she also notices a change in his demeanour and sees him making a “shut up” gesture to his friends that she obviously is not meant to see. The more she thinks about it, the more she realises that she knows very little about the father of her unborn child.

That is just the beginning of her suspicions, triggered by awkward silences, looks, words. We are fed little snippets of information that build up tension and suspicion. Rachel asking questions; watching Jack’s face for any changes. Getting plausible answers. There is definitely a sense of paranoia, starting small but increasing. Is it Rachel’s imagination? Or is she right to seek explanations. It’s possible that Rachel already has trust issues. After all apparently she and her long term boyfriend had broken up because of her unfounded accusations that he was cheating, just a month before she met Jack.

Finding out the ‘truth’ starts to become a bit of an obsession. Her family and friends warn her not to obsess but you just know she will. Using social media, she searches for him and any information available but there is very little. While visiting at his parents in Oban a letter arrives addressed to a J Douglas; she does the unthinkable and opens it then seals it up again. When later she ‘innocently’ asks him about it he tells her uses two names for his writing. Of course it then starts again, taking her phone into the bathroom or kitchen and searching for anything on J Douglas.

When she doesn’t find anything, she becomes even more suspicious. What lengths will Rachel go to to satisfy herself that she knows everything? Invasion of someone’s privacy is a very serious matter. Is it ever justified?

I think I’ve said enough. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone. It’s quite a complex multi-layered tale that is well written and easy to read. The characters are strong but no one is spotless and squeaky clean (in my opinion). As I read on, doubts crept in. Are things really as Rachel tells us? As her paranoia increases we get snippets about her past including the death of her mother and the circumstances leading up to her career change.

Initially I did consider what Jack may be hiding but I soon realised I was way off. I simply accepted the twists and turns and just enjoyed the story. A very satisfying page turner and a great debut.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a review copy]

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