Monday, 27 September 2010

Reaching Denmark...

'very fine debut' - The Woman Before Me

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall has officially reached Denmark and received a great review from DJs krimiblog. Below is a taster:

This British thriller is a debut. We enter this story when Rose Wilks´ newborn baby dies, and Emma Hatchet´s boy lives. After the tragedy, Rose keeps in close contact with Emma who is the ex-wife of Rose´s lover, Jason. She babysits little Luke as often as his parents will let her, and she even begins breast-feeding him and sneaking into the house behind Emma´s back. So when Luke dies in a fire which started during one of the nights that Rose used her copy of the kitchen door key, she ends up in court, accused of murder...

Important themes of the story are love, obsession and jealousy, and even though the novel is written in the present tense, I was absorbed by it immediately.

To read the review in full click here


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review of The Woman Before Me

The Woman Before Me has been reviewed by author Jim Murdoch on his blog The Truth About Lies.
There are many people in prison who maintain their innocence: for some that’s just what they’ve been told to say no matter what evidence is put in front of them; others truly believe in their innocence – they may acknowledge that they have committed some offence according to the laws of the land but they believe they are answerable to a higher power, if not God then at least their own conscience and there are those who because of some miscarriage of justice find themselves incarcerated for a crime they did not commit.
To read the rest of the review click here

This is probably the most detailed review yet of the novel, and I found it very thought provoking I don't know Jim, and I'm grateful to him for such a thorough review.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Bookbag Review

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
From TheBookbag
Genre: General Fiction
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Summary: This is a tense, taut, almost claustrophobic domestic tragedy. Two couples' lives caught up in childhood illness and death - who will be punished and who will go Scot-free?
Buy? Yes
Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288
Date: August 2010
Publisher: Legend Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1907461156 l

We're introduced to one of the female central characters, Rose. There's been a serious house fire and a baby has been involved. Rose is implicated. But is she innocent or guilty? Unfortunately for Rose, she's been in the wrong place at the wrong time - and she's put behind bars. Five years is a long time for a young woman with the rest of her life to lead. Even more so, if you're telling anyone and everyone that you are, in fact, innocent of the crime. But is anyone listening?
Well, yes. Enter a young, fresh-faced probation officer called Cate. It's her job to listen, after all. Cate has to make a big decision - and soon. And this decision will have implications not only for her client, Rose but all those involved in the past tragedy. And all those wasted years in prison have altered Rose. She's tougher, knows the system and also how to play it - to her advantage.
This book is full of bubbling emotions and all the more so as the reader is taken behind bars to hear Rose's side of the story. And her story makes for uncomfortable reading at times. Dugdall takes us right back to the young Rose. We discover her childhood was not great. She was aware of grown-up issues which shaped her adolescence and beyond. Dugdall spends a long time on Rose and I got a real sense of the troubled character. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence in spades. Not helped by the fact that Rose is no beauty. And even although we all know that beauty is only skin deep it doesn't help Rose one bit. The whole boyfriend/social scene seemed to passed her by.
And to add a good dollop of angst, the other female character in the story, Emma, appears to have the perfect life: pretty, adored by her husband (successful, of course) and she is universally liked. All the things Rose craves. And so the tension builds and builds with the alternate story of these two very different young women. There is a link which binds them together. But what is this link? The reader is also given the probation officer's background. She grapples to remain professional at all times but it's not easy.
Dugdall has written a very good storyline which is full of emotion and suspense. She drip feeds the reader with important information which is always a page-turner. A deft touch is Rose's constant black book entry which gives us the inner thoughts and workings of Rose's mind. It also tells us whether she is innocent or guilty of the crime. Dudgall keeps the best till last, keeps us dangling. Just when I thought I'd got it sussed, I'm proved wrong. This is a clever and suspenseful story told in an engaging style. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy No Escape by N J Cooper.
You can read more book reviews and buy The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall at Amazon and Waterstones

Petrona Review

Petrona review just up. Many thanks to them for taking the time to review TWBM:

09 September 2010
Book Review: The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
The Woman Before Me Ruth DugdallLegend Press, August 2010, £7.99 paperback.
This novel is an extremely addictive debut, which deservedly won the CWA debut dagger this year. The publisher very kindly contacted me to offer a copy, and though books about babies in danger are definitely not my cup of tea, I accepted the generous offer -- and I am glad I did.
The novel is a real page-turner, being mainly the story of Rose, a woman who is on trial for setting a house on fire with a baby and his mother inside it. The novel explores Rose’s past via her diary, exposing a history of neglect by her parents and parent-figures for a variety of reasons. As a young adult, Rose ends up working in various menial jobs in a seaside hotel, where she meets Jason, the barman, and falls for him. She and Jason begin to live together, fulfilling Rose’s fantasy of a happy relationship. The reality, though, is that Jason is still in love with his young ex-wife Emma, and isn’t that interested in Rose. The author builds up the suspense within this eternal triangle, and cleverly portrays emotions and events spiralling out of control.
The contemporary part of the novel centres around Cate, a newly qualified prison probation officer. She has to decide whether or not Rose deserves parole when her case comes up in the next few weeks. Cate has a tough time of it, partly as a newly-single parent whose young daughter Amelia is in child care while her mother works, and partly because of the prison culture, which consists of (mainly) deeply sexist, lazy and overweight men (there is one butch female guard), together with devious prisoners who are pretty good at playing the system and hoodwinking their keepers.
There is plenty of suspense and melodrama in this novel; even though the main plot twist is very easy to anticipate, it is delivered with high impact. I won’t say more in my review as I do not want to provide any spoilers, but the subsidiary twist is not convincing to me, given what we know of the principal characters.
As a debut novel, this is a remarkably assured and well-written book. It only takes an hour or two to read, and is well-worth the effort. The book is not without its flaws, unfortunately, and at several points during Rose’s back-story I was hardly able to suspend my belief even while my emotions were engaged in her sad yet creepy tale. The other story, about Cate, peters out towards the end which is quite disappointing, as the prison scenes, from the perspectives of the inmates and the administration, are perhaps the strongest part of the book (the author worked in the probation service), and Cate is an intriguing character. The novel is clearly by a very talented author, and despite the occasional lapses from believability, it is certainly a novel well worth reading as an exploration of the nastier aspects of human nature and the bleaker end of the genre.
Legend Press is an independent book publisher, and it’s great for them as well as the author that the novel has won the CWA debut dagger. I hope that it does very well.
News and reviews about this novel at Legend Press's website.
Interview with the author at Books You Love.
Read another review of this novel at The Bookbag.