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148 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great psychological insight & an impressive debut
I have to begin this review with a caveat. I rarely read crime fiction, so know little about the conventions of the genre. Nevertheless this book was highly recommended to me so I thought I would break with habit and read it. I'm glad I did.

THE WOMAN BEFORE ME was instantly engaging and kept me gripped throughout. I'd go so far as to say it's unputdownable...
Published on 9 Jan. 2011 by S'lander1

versus
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a thriller
This novel has been described as a "psychological thriller", and while it is certainly psychological, it didn't feel to me to be much of a thriller. It tells the story of Rose, who has been jailed for killing the baby of her friend Emma. Emma has everything Rose would like; beauty, a lovely husband, home and baby; while Rose's own life has been hard. She has had a...
Published on 21 Jun. 2011 by Frances Stott


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148 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great psychological insight & an impressive debut, 9 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
I have to begin this review with a caveat. I rarely read crime fiction, so know little about the conventions of the genre. Nevertheless this book was highly recommended to me so I thought I would break with habit and read it. I'm glad I did.

THE WOMAN BEFORE ME was instantly engaging and kept me gripped throughout. I'd go so far as to say it's unputdownable. Partly this is due to the clear and precise prose, partly the carefully structured and controlled plot. Not a great deal happens (if you're looking for lots of murders or car chases I suggest you pick up something else) yet the author manages to take the ordinary lives of people and make them truly captivating.

The novel's greatest strength is Rose Wilks. She narrates the majority of the book in flash back and despite being a convicted child killer emerges as a complex but sympathetic - ultimately even tragic - character. Ruth Dugdall has written her with great psychological insight and captures Rose's descent into obsession with chilling precision. I found myself desperate for Rose to do the right thing and yet simultaneously understanding her needs, even empathising with them. It's quite an achievement and left me disturbed long after I had put the book down.

This is an impressive debut and I would recommend it without reservation.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman Before Me, 13 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Crime novels are 'not my scene' so this is a book I would not have read had it not been selected for our book club. I am glad it was.

At one level, The Woman Before Me does not sit easily into the crime genre ; for me, one of its great strengths is that it is a study of loss - all types of loss - and particularly the conflicting emotions that loss engenders in women. In particular, two women are contrasted - one a superficial woman whose life revolves around the ephemera of our time, and the other a deep, insightful but impoverished spirit, who sinks further into obsession as the story progresses.

Ruth Dugdall draws her characters with consummate skill, using her personal experience as a Probation Officer in a women's prison to bring them to life. She holds the reader's atention through to the end, with its horrifying twist.

I have no hesitation is recommending this to any reader.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of love and hate, obsession and revenge, 6 Jan. 2012
By 
Bookie (UK) - See all my reviews
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What a cracking tale. I haven't come across this author before, but the reviews looked interesting and I was gripped from the start.

Dugdall's narrative flows along at exctly the right pace; she builds tension as the story develops. The narrative reveals an ear for detail; it's authentic and I would say draws on personal experience of prison life and attitudes. The macho, sexist chauvinism is particularly well observed.

The central character is a sorry individual. One trying to make the best of a poor lot in life. Her obsessive behaviour takes over leading to appalling consequences. She is a deeply flawed individual, but manipulative and cunning in the extreme. Her way of exacting revenge on those she hates is both rational and irrational.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, polished it off quickly because it was completely engaging and on the strength of that, bought the next in the Cate series. That's shaping up well too! Go for it.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a thriller, 21 Jun. 2011
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Frances Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
This novel has been described as a "psychological thriller", and while it is certainly psychological, it didn't feel to me to be much of a thriller. It tells the story of Rose, who has been jailed for killing the baby of her friend Emma. Emma has everything Rose would like; beauty, a lovely husband, home and baby; while Rose's own life has been hard. She has had a relationship with Jason, Emma's ex-husband, and has managed to hang on to him, despite his continued infatuation with his ex-wife, because Rose too becomes pregnant.

The story begins with Rose coming up for parole, and Cate, her probation officer, looking into her case and making her decision on whether or not to recommend the parole. The suspense, such as it is, rests on whether or not the parole will be granted, and more importantly, what really happened. Did Rose kill Emma's baby? And if not, who did? I found the final denouement very disappointing, and the writing generally didn't grip me as it has other readers. Another (small) point lies with one particular piece of grammar. People are repeatedly described as being "stood" or "sat" (eg "he was stood at the window") when the correct word should be "standing" or "sitting", and for me, this jarred. I fail to understand how these errors - small as they are - got past the author's editor.

I found this a good enough read, but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological thriller with pace and interest, 3 Nov. 2011
By 
thea1710@aol.com (Tredegar, South Wales) - See all my reviews
This is a book you have to finish - yet do not want to end. As the novel continues you develop empathy for Rose as her back story un folds - but also get an insight into her psychopathology. Cate the probation officer, is a more two dimensional character and I would have liked her character to have been more developed which would have added to the interest. The novel could have been longer and this is where Cates story could have unfolded. I remain puzzled as to the reason she made the decision she did - I do not feel there was enough explanation or exploration of Cates reasoning.
The other main characters are well described by the voices of Rose and Cate - giving different perspectives on each of them.I loved the twists in Roses little black book and the way the author timed each revelation before changing to Cates story. I would
thoroughly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Reading, 3 Mar. 2011
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
This story isn't a typical psychological thriller. The story unfolds when Luke, Emma's baby dies in a fire started by a cigarette at her home. Rose is arrested for the crime and she admitted she was in the house on the night of the fire.

Rose's story unfolds in a long letter written to her partner whilst in prison and the reader is left in no doubt that her character is damaged. Alongside this we have Cate, her Probation Officer going through the evidence and talking to the parties involved trying to decide what she should write in her report to the Parole Board.

As the story is set in a prison there are other characters, all believable all with their own viewpoints.

This story is about so many different things, loss, relationships, jealousy and obsession all displayed in a measured manner.

Fantastic hope Ruth Dugdall writes more for us.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disturbing tale of motherhood and murder, 23 Aug. 2010
By 
M. D. Ripley "Mike Ripley" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Ruth Dugdall is a young British crime-writer who uses her career in the Probation Service to stunning effect in "The Woman Before Me".
This is a bleak, dark psychological thriller, at times quite hypnotic. It is a tragic story of two young mothers linked by the horror of the death of a child, and a third mother, a Probation Officer, who has to show the judgement of a Solomon. The prison system does not come out of this with any honour - prison warders of both sexes are brutish and cruel - nor do men in a more general sense, but this is a thriller about women and women who want only to be good mothers, as they see it. With most psychological thrillers, you just know something terrible is going to happen. With this one, the reader discovers the most terrible crime already has happened. A far-from-relaxing read, this is as bleak as its coastal Suffolk setting, but gripping and powerful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman Before Me, 13 Jun. 2014
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the sort of book that you only want to start when you know you will have time to finish it otherwise you will find yourself carrying it around with you and reading it at any spare moment. Rose is in prison for starting a fire which killed her friend’s baby. She was convicted of manslaughter and has served half her sentence so she is eligible for parole if the prison authorities and her probation officer think she poses no danger to anyone. Cate Austin – probation officer based in the prison where Rose is incarcerated – has her own problems as a single parent juggling full time work and the care of her young daughter, Amelia.

Much of the book is narrated by Rose herself and the reader needs to decide whether she is a narrator who can be trusted to tell the truth. There is something disturbing right from the start of this book and I found I was constantly on edge waiting for a revelation or for something violent to happen. Gradually the tension builds throughout the book as aspects of what happened on the night of the fire are revealed by other characters.

The writing is excellent and it is easy to see why the book when the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger award. The themes of crime and punishment, mothers’ guilt about not being there for their children, friendship, love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal are all here. No one is quite what they seem and yet the reader is made to feel at least some sympathy for all the characters.

This is a dark and disturbing read which will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from NetGalley.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful characters, great psyche., 31 May 2012
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
The Woman Before Me is the first of Ruth Dugdall's psychological thrillers about probation officer, Cate Austin, and her prison in-mate clients.
Cate, newly returned to work as a single mum after a period of depression, is the ultimate decision maker in whether convicted murderer, Rose Wilks, will be let out of prison early. Cate must decide if Rose shows remorse for her crime but this requires Rose to take responsibility for a crime she claims she did not commit. Fragile Cate's few unsatisfactory meetings with Rose and the people from her past form the basis of a terrifyingly subjective decision process. Will she make the right choice? Rose is pivotal in her getting it right but she's playing games.
Rose, an intelligent girl whose inadequate upbringing led her to a hotel cleaning job, has been hardened by her four years moving between prisons. Word quickly gets out that she is the worst of criminals and many of the prisoners and staff treat her accordingly.
Rose lost her own baby a few months prior to her crime and the child's father, Jason, has been unfaithful throughout their complicated relationship. Although Rose plays her part in its difficulties, it's hard to despise a woman who's had such a lonely upbringing and led such a sorrowful adult life. Cate's verdict may come as a shock but through a greater dose of luck than judgement, it catapults Rose to a place from which she will, eventually, be able to move on from her crime.
Heavily based on the psyche, The Woman Before Me isn't as fast-paced as a classic thriller but is, instead, a thoughtful page turner and one I read in two nights. I recommend this as much to readers who like a good drama based around imperfect characters, as thriller enthusiasts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read would recommend, 31 July 2012
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
After reading the sacrificial man I looked for more of this author's books on Kindle and I glad I came across The Woman Before Me. I really enjoy the way Ruth writes as she brings her characters to life and tells a great, interesting story. I always say a good writer is one who gets the reader to easily imagine the characters and scenes they describe. Ruth does this for me. I guessed a lot of what was coming with the lives of Rose, Jason and Emma, but then I read a lot. The only disappointment is the endings as they are so abrupt, but then that's me wanting more and not wanting the book to end. Hope there are more books featuring Cate Austin.
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The Woman Before Me
The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Paperback - 28 Aug. 2010)
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