Before the Rain Falls, Camille Di Maio: Book Review

before the rain falls camille di maio book reviewLake Union Publishing / Camille Di Maio
Before the Rain Falls Book Cover Before the Rain Falls
Camille Di Maio
Lake Union Publishing

After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

This review contains quotes from the book.

*Special thanks to Get Red PR for allowing us to read Camille Di Maio’s Before the Rain Falls.

Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio is different from other murder mysteries that I have read in the past. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever read a murder mystery where the potential killer is the narrator.

Di Maio sets her novel in 1943, when Della Lee is found guilty of the murder of her sister, Eula. In the book’s prologue, there are clues that suggest Della Lee could quite possibly have committed this heinous crime against her sister, although she never gives a full confession of the act. So you don’t necessarily know whether Della Lee really did murder her sister, nor do we get to know her motives until we delve into the book.

However, there is a slight admission, when she discusses her marriage to Tomas. I felt like her disclosure was an admission of guilt. She was convicted of the murder for a number of reasons. There had to have been significant proof that she was at least a part of her sister’s death. Whenever I read that admission, I felt uneasy because I already knew I wouldn’t be able to get over the fact that she truly did kill her sister. There is no excuse for that.

There is a particular scene in the book that, while it makes no mention to whether she was involved or had an accomplice, stood out to me as suspicious:

“She knew Tomas was sitting in the first row behind her, his fingers chapped from gripping the railing as the arguments played out. He’d been there every day, every moment, abandoning what few crops and livestock were left on the homestead. She could feel his eyes boring into her now-stringy hair. They’d been married only four hours when it happened, their newly minuted future ripped apart by an ivory-handled knife.”

“Tomas said he understood why she’d done what she did.”

— excerpt from Camille Di Maio’s Before the Rain Falls

There were a few narrators in this novel that made this story more appealing. Della Lee is introduced early as you learn about her backstory almost immediately. Della Lee has the more entertaining story because you start to find out that she was found guilty of the murder of her own sister. Then you jump ahead 70 years to when she is finally let out of jail. Once she has time to gather herself in her childhood home, she realizes she has a lot to say before she dies. She makes it her goal to get her truth out to anyone who will listen.

“It was the freedom in telling your secrets before it was too late. Like the confessional of her youth, whispering things to Fr. Medina that she told no one else. About how she missed her mother. Her guilt over not being good enough caregiver for her sister. Della had a story, and she was ready to tell it.

She would think of this time as the Truth Days. That was it.

The Truth Days.

And it would start by visiting Eula.”

— excerpt from Camille Di Maio’s Before the Rain Falls

Then we meet journalist Mick Anders, whom Della confides as he is the only one willing to listen to hear her story because, for one, he was suspended from the newspaper he worked for in Boston, which means this could be a moment of redemption for him. And secondly, he wanted to look into a portrait of Della Lee’s sister Eula because rumors say the image sheds actual tears. So, of course, he has two angles of a story that could get him back on track with his job in Boston.

Lastly, we meet Dr. Paloma Vega. She is in Puerto Pesar, Texas because her grandmother is dying and she needed to help her younger sister before she ruins her life. Dr. Paloma Vega and Mick Anders become close throughout the novel. They both do not realize that Puerto Pesar is going to change them forever.

My favorite part of this story was Della Lee’s backstory. Di Maio did a really good job with going in depth about what it was like to be Della Lee before her incarceration. Di Maio also explains Della Lee and Eula’s relationship before Eula was killed, which added an another layer of context that really helped me to see them as individual characters outside of each other. Another interesting aspect about Before the Rain Falls is when we come to discover Della Lee’s and Dr. Paloma Vega’s connection, and we realize their pasts are more intertwined than we thought; it was something I did not expect at all.

I recommend this to anyone who loves a good murder mystery novel and who also likes novels that have a few twists in them. This novel has an interesting plot line that will draw you immediately in.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a junior in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate from journalism school.