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253 Reviews
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142 of 148 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

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14 of 16 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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142 of 148 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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35 of 37 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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27 of 31 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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a thriller, 21 Jun 2011
By 
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Whodunnit, but a Whydunnit, 20 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
This is a book told from an unusual viewpoint - from a probation officer whose job it is to establish whether a woman who has served four years of a sentence for the manslaughter of a baby is ready for parole. So we know who did it (do we??) and we know what the crime was (do we??) but the book reveals to us the complex relationships that underlie the entire situation. This is sometimes a difficult read, dark and disturbing, but the pages turn faster and faster as you go. This story is a refreshing change from the usual crime mystery, populated with real characters you can believe in. An excellent novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very put downable., 25 Oct 2013
By 
Mme J. Silk (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book which I took as a holiday read. For me it was very disappointing, characters that failed to engage, far fetched plot and a day I will never get back!(Quick reader)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Less than halfway through I realised what the ending would bring.
By page 142 I had guessed the ending. The book is 288 pages in total.
I checked the ending, I had correctly guessed one of the two major "twists" that appear in the final few pages.
I won't spoil it for you if you have already bought the book, BUT I WOULD SUGGEST IGNORING Amazon's recommendations.
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Thriller, 12 April 2012
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This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this - sorry you'll get no spoilers from me. However, it's quite clever to get an unlikeable character, get to understand why she is the way she is, feel compassion and then have the full facts of the story laid out before you. I think I saw somewhere that this is a debut book - if this is the case this author is going to produce some great books in the future.
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The Woman Before Me
The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Paperback - 28 Aug 2010)
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