Out of Breath by Anna Snoekstra

Published: 2022 Harper Collins Mystery/thriller

Jo Ainsley is a young English backpacker who travels alone to an isolated region of Western Australia, to work on a mango farm. She has traumatic memories from her past – some of which she has managed to bury deep into her mind. She settles into the routine of farm work, but, after a tragic event on the farm, she walks out, and manages to reach an old abandoned settlement, where a group of people are living secretly. It is here that Jo starts to feel comfortable, and the group introduce her to free-diving, otherwise known as breath-hold diving. When Jo discovers disturbing secrets, she realizes she needs to do something, and this leads to a startling conclusion.

“Red dirt. Orange cliffs. Long, endless horizons. This isn’t just rural, it’s the Australian outback.”

The isolated setting, creepy characters (one of them is a 10-year-old boy), crocodile-infested swamps, and buried secrets are all here, elements of a great mystery thriller. The author is an accomplished writer, using all the techniques to build tension. Some surprising and unexpected twists make this an engaging story that keeps the reader turning the pages. I was continually trying to guess which characters were trustworthy, and which ones were just plain evil. And what were the group of people really doing in such an isolated place with very little contact with the outside world? Better Reading Review: “Set against a stunning, vivid outback landscape, Out of Breath is a compelling thriller, packed with page-turning tension and crackling with suspense. This book is a slow burn, but once it reaches the final act, the action comes thick and fast, resulting in a satisfying and fitting end.”

Author: Anna Snoeskstra


“She keeps going. Pushing through the scrub towards the shimmering water. A car door slams.”

“He holds his nose and she sees his mouth open, a huge breath, then he’s under. She sees the bobble of his bum, his feet splashing the surface. Then nothing. Silence. Jo finds she is holding her own breath. After a few seconds, she lets it out. Ho-jin doesn’t come up. She scans the water, looking at the heads, the people sitting on the sand bed. No one is moving. She notices the sky has darkened, just in the few minutes she has been sitting here. It’s turned grey-blue, but the water is sparkling. Ho-jin hasn’t come up. It must have been at least a minute. Is it possible to hold your breath that long? Underwater as well. No one appears concerned. She hears a small laugh. Two women have their heads bent together on the rocks, their shoulders touching. The breeze lessens, then dies away entirely, like it too is holding its breath. Jo looks around. Could she get there in time if she ran down and around the incline, could she jump in and try and find him in all that blue water?”

Images: Man swimming Pexels; Kimberley region Wikimedia

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