The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
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?
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