Before The Rains – Dinah Jefferies


1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .


I’ve really enjoyed Dinah Jefferies’ previous novels.  Before The Rains is her fourth one and they just seem to get better and better.  I just like her style of writing.

I loved this story of Eliza, a young widow trying to make a name for herself as a photojournalist, in 1930s India, and who has just been given a commission to spend a year living in the palace of Prince Anish, photographing the royal family and life in the princely state of Juraipore for a new archive.

Not everyone in the castle welcomes her presence. She was sent there by the British government, and some think she may be spying for the British, but she does seem to get along with the younger son, Jayant.

Right from the start you get a real sense of the contrasts: the heat and dust and poverty Eliza sees surrounding the castle, and the scents, colour and opulence of the interior.  This is something I find the author does very well – her wonderful descriptions seem almost effortless but you get a great sense of time and place.  It’s easy to imagine you are there as the story unfolds although you couldn’t possibly have been there (in my case I’m too young – I wasn’t born until the 1950s!)  Dinah is an excellent storyteller.  I suppose you could say it is historical romantic fiction (historical in the sense of recent history) but it has depth.  It is a time of growing political unrest, the Indian population is governed by the British.  Eliza is an interesting character who doesn’t really fit the mould of a young English woman in India.    The plot moves at a good pace and the various threads of the story are woven expertly.

It’s a story of love, friendship, secrets, deceit, sacrifice, betrayal. There are a couple of twists although they weren’t entirely unexpected. Overall, a very satisfying read.

Author’s website:  here

Before The Rains was published by Penguin on 23 February 2017.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for an ARC]

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Everything but the Truth – Gillian McAllister



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?


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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Blue Light Yokohama – Nicolás Obregón



Setagaya ward, Tokyo
Inspector Kosuke Iwata, newly transferred to Tokyo’s homicide department, is assigned a new partner and a secondhand case.

Blunt, hard as nails and shunned by her colleagues, Assistant Inspector Noriko Sakai is a partner Iwata decides it would be unwise to cross.

A case that’s complicated – a family of four murdered in their own home by a killer who then ate ice cream, surfed the web and painted a hideous black sun on the bedroom ceiling before he left in broad daylight. A case that so haunted the original investigator that he threw himself off the city’s famous Rainbow Bridge.

Carrying his own secret torment, Iwata is no stranger to pain. He senses the trauma behind the killer’s brutal actions. Yet his progress is thwarted in the unlikeliest of places.

Fearing corruption among his fellow officers, tracking a killer he’s sure is only just beginning and trying to put his own shattered life back together, Iwata knows time is running out before he’s taken off the case or there are more killings . . .


I’m not sure if it is coincidence or whether I am subconsciously travelling the world via new titles but recently I have read novels set in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and now Japan (and the next one on my reading list is set in India!)

I heard about Blue Light Yokohama via an email and the description intrigued me, especially since the book was inspired by true events.

Inspector Kosuke Iwata had been signed off work for a while and on his return is transferred to Tokyo’s Homicide Department. He is allocated a new partner, Noriko Sakai, and given a secondhand case where a Korean family of four had been murdered in their own home, complicated by the fact that the original investigator had committed suicide a few days earlier.

It soon becomes clear that both Iwata and Sakai have their own issues. Snippets of Iwata’s troubled, painful, past are slowly revealed. Sakai comes across as hard but efficient. She doesn’t mix with her colleagues and some of them try to give her a hard time.

When they start investigating the brutal murders it looks like there could have been a ritualistic element to them but no real clues.

When more cases turn up, Iwata thinks they may have a serial killer, but they get little support from the bosses. Apart from the Korean family, there just doesn’t seem to be anything linking the victims. As they investigate further Iwata deals with bullying, corruption, incompetence and his own demons. It also appears that someone is out to destroy his career.

Nicolás Obregón sets a wonderful scene and although I have never been to Tokyo, I felt a sense of being there, even the bleak places.

It’s quite a complex story because of the references to Iwata’s recent past, and also his childhood/adolescence, as well as the present, but I found I was able to follow it. Initially I had some trouble with the unfamiliar Japanese names and places but you get used to that. I liked the ending and for me it was a real page-turner.

Is it different to any other police procedural/crime thriller set somewhere else? Yes, I believe it is. I felt I got a glimpse of some aspect of Japanese life. Whether it is an accurate portrayal, I don’t know, but it makes for a good debut novel.

Author’s webpage is here.

My thanks to NetGalley and the UK publishers Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for an advance copy.

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The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni


When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight.


I’m a fan of Robert Dugoni’s books, having discovered him through NetGalley.

I like his writing style. His books seem to have a bit of substance – a good balance of scene setting, characters, dialogue and importantly, as far as I am concerned, a well-written, entertaining story. This one is no exception.

The Trapped Girl is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Tracy is a strong character, a homicide detective in the Seattle Police Department and she leads a good team. In the previous books, she’s had problems with her boss, Captain Johnny Nolasco. They really don’t like each other and in the past he has made life difficult for Tracy but this time round, we see a slightly softer, more mature side to Tracy and while she is still disagreeing with her boss, she’s trying a different approach. Her personal life also seems more settled.

Tracy and her colleague Kins are called out to a body found near Cormorant Cove, not far from Tracy’s home. A high school student who is out crabbing illegally in Puget Sound caught more than he bargained for when he pulled up a crab pot with a young woman’s body in it. It turned out the victim had facial implants of the kind to change her appearance and by tracing the serial numbers to the manufacturer, eventually got a name from the plastic surgeon who had carried out the procedure – but little else. Lynn Hoff had paid in cash, and had requested that she be given all the photographs taken.

Further investigation leads them to believe Lynn Hoff did not want to be found and had never been reported as missing. No history, a fake social security number, no employment, no phone, nothing.

But then the story takes another twist. Tracy obtains Lynn Hoff’s drivers licence and the photo is passed around. She is contacted by a ranger based in Mount Rainier National Park. He believes the woman is someone who went missing, presumed dead, in unusual circumstances on the mountain, except he says her name is Andrea Strickland.

Just as Tracy’s team are starting to get somewhere, they are ordered to hand the case over to Pierce County who had investigated Andrea Strickland’s disappearance from Mount Rainier. Tracy wasn’t happy about this particularly since she considered their detective, Stan Fields, had carried out a pretty sloppy investigation into the circumstances surrounding Andrea Strickland’s disappearance. So of course Tracy being Tracy, she carries on investigating (just a little) after complying with the order to hand over the case.

Some of the chapters in the book are in the voice of Andrea Strickland (in journal form) so you get a lot of background as to what was happening with her work, her marriage, her husband, her friends, a few months earlier, all adding to the mystery and throwing up possible suspects.

It’s a complex plot but written so well that it is not difficult to follow. There are great twists and turns. I thought I had sussed it out, but I didn’t get it quite right. For a while it looked like I was going to be close, but then there was another twist. Wonderful stuff. Definitely a page-turner.

Although The Trapped Girl is fourth in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

My thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing an ARC.

Author’s website:

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Blink by K L Slater



What if the person you love most in the world was in terrible danger … because of you?

Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after leaving school. The police have never been able to find her. There were no witnesses, no CCTV, no trace. 

But Toni believes her daughter is alive. And as she begins to silently piece together her memories, the full story of the past begins to reveal itself, and a devastating truth.

Toni’s mind is trapped in a world of silence, her only chance to save herself is to manage the impossible. She must find a way to make herself heard. She must find her daughter. 


I couldn’t put this psychological thriller down. There was no slow build up. Blink grabbed my attention right from the opening lines – the words of an unknown person, “You don’t know this, but I watch you. I watch you a lot …” I couldn’t quite make up my mind if these were the words of the person who abducted 5 year old Evie or possibly her mother or even someone else.

It’s one of these stories that switches between the present and three years earlier. I’ve read a few of these time shift stories and I usually enjoy them. I think the gradual revelation of past events really adds something to the story if written well.

The present is set in a room in the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, where a patient lies unresponsive and hooked up to machines that are keeping her alive, apparently having suffered a massive stroke.  The medical staff consider her to be in a vegetative state however the patient can hear and think and inside she is screaming for attention. She just can’t respond in any way. But she can remember some things like Evie’s face and her laughter. She also can hear doctors discussing the possibility of switching off the machines that are keeping her alive.

Three years earlier Toni and her 5 year old daughter Evie had moved to Nottingham to be nearer to Toni’s mother. Toni is a single parent (not by choice) who had suffered a devastating loss and who was not coping well. The move has been difficult for both of them.

Nothing seems to go right for her. She is obviously suffering from depression and anxiety and uses pills that were not prescribed for her to help her calm down and sleep. Toni and her mum, although close, don’t always agree especially where Evie is concerned. You feel as if Toni is starting to lose the plot and on the brink of a breakdown. She is so desperate you feel she’ll believe what she wants to believe and not question other people’s motives too much. When she takes a pill she can’t be roused even when Evie tries to waken her. There are various incidents and mix ups especially in relation to Evie’s attendance at her new school. Is Toni guilty of neglecting her 5 year old daughter? I found Harriet Watson, the domineering teaching assistant who tries to pass herself off as Evie’s teacher, particularly sinister.

Toni manages to find a part time job in an estate agency, despite her mother’s objections that Evie needs her mum at the moment, but that is not without complications either. Her boss seems like a nasty, vindictive person but who can turn on the charm when clients are around, and was perfectly charming to Evie when she and her mum called in at the office one morning.

The tension builds up as Toni’s mental state deteriorates. There are several characters in the book who are frankly a bit strange and any one of them could be involved in the subsequent disappearance of Evie.

There are a few shocking twists in the story and although I felt the ending perhaps came a bit too quickly, I really enjoyed this book.  Nothing was done around my house until I finished it.

You can find my thoughts on Kim’s debut novel Safe With Me here.  I think Blink is just as good, maybe even better.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Bookouture, for providing an advance copy]

Author’s website here

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land



Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter… Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with, and in its author, Ali Land, an extraordinary new talent.


Good Me, Bad Me is one tense thriller.  Oh yes.  The tension is there from the start  The writing style demonstrates that – short sentences, fast paced.   At one point I stopped to make a coffee and realised I was so physically tense I was going to have to try and breathe properly and release some of that tension.

Milly knows her mother has done terrible things. Milly’s mother is a serial killer.  Milly is the one who reported her to the Police and her mother is now in jail awaiting trial.  But Milly misses her mum.  She is with a new foster family, has a new name, and has started a new school.  She tries, but finds it hard to fit in.  She thinks about her mum all the time and can’t sleep.  It’s as if her mum is still with her.

Milly’s foster dad is Mike, a psychologist who is an expert in trauma.  And Milly has experienced terrible things throughout her life at the hands of her mother.  Mike is married to Saskia and they have a daughter Phoebe.  It’s clear from early on Phoebe has a problem with Milly.  She also doesn’t get on that well with her own mother. She is bitter and angry that her parents are fostering yet again.

Mike has regular counselling sessions with Millie to try and help her cope with what has happened and the forthcoming Trial.  But does Mike have his own agenda?

The tension just builds and builds.

The story is told from Milly’s point of view but you soon realise that what Milly says to others is not necessarily what she is really thinking.

Although it gets quite dark at times, I really enjoyed this debut novel.  Despite her problems I liked Milly.  I wanted a good outcome for her.  I got a good ending but …… ?

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy]

























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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The Dry – Jane Harper


I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.


The Dry is a very good debut novel. I liked the writing. It kind of sucked me in immediately. I felt as if I was in that hot, dry town of Kiewarra which was suffering from a longstanding drought.

Aaron Falk is the outsider who has reluctantly returned to the town of Kiewarra where he had grown up, to attend the funeral of Luke Hadler and his wife and son. Luke and Aaron had been friends when they were younger but Aaron had left Kiewarra with his father and had gone to live in the city where he now worked as a policeman. Luke remained a farmer, married Karen and had two children. Apparently Luke came home on day shot his wife and son (but not the baby daughter) and then shot himself in the face.

Aaron planned to stay just for the funeral and wake and leave the next day but he is persuaded by Luke’s parents to stay on for a few days to look into the deaths to see if their son’s name can be cleared. What caused Luke to murder his wife and son? Was his business in financial ruin? When Aaron starts to investigate he finds a few things that just don’t make sense.

Things are complicated by the fact that Aaron is not welcome in the town. He and his father had left the town twenty odd years before having been under suspicion for the death of 16 year old Ellie Deacon, who had been Aaron’s girlfriend at the time. Luke had come up with an story that gave Aaron an alibi at that time but they had agreed to keep that secret between them.

However as Aaron and local police Sergeant Greg Raco investigate deeper, old wounds open, scores have to be settled. Emotions are running high. The drought has affected everyone. Livestock have had to be destroyed because there is no feed, debts are mounting, some farmers have been ruined. Was Luke another casualty of the drought?

Aaron is threatened, his vehicle is damaged, he is challenged in the street, he’s accused of harassment – the tension and the underlying threat of violence is kept running high.

In the meantime we get flashbacks to what actually happened in the past (printed in italics so easily distinguished from the present).

There are quite a few twists and red herrings. Just as Aaron and Raco think they have someone who could have been involved in the family’s murder, an alibi surfaces.

The writing is good and the characters are interesting. I liked the flashbacks to the past. Emotions and surroundings are at flashpoint (literally). A real page turner and a very good ending.

The Dry has already been published in Australia and the author’s webpage can be found here.

It’s scheduled for release in the UK 12 January 2017.

My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for an advance copy.


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