Saturday, 6 November 2010

Crime Time Review!

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The Woman Before Me Ruth Dugdall
Giles Morgan
Rose Wilks has spent nearly five years in prison accused of the murder of a child. It is now up to her probation officer Cate Austin to help determine whether she should be released or is still potentially a danger to others.
This apparently straightforward decision is the starting point for a complex and often tortured enquiry that reveals a succession of damaged and painful lives whose paths end in tragedy. It is revealed that Rose comes from a broken home in Lowestoft with a mother who suffered from severe depression who ultimately took her own life. Rejected by her father and his lover she is handed on to her Auntie Rita who though supportive dies when she is still only sixteen. Having lost so much at such a young age she becomes insular and withdrawn and develops obsessive relationships over which she is desperate to gain some sense of control. When she embarks on her first serious relationship she becomes involved with a young man who has recently split from his wife but is still intensely in love with her. It is this potentially dangerous situation that leads to the horrific death of a child in a house fire which Rose is accused of starting.

The Woman Before Me is a harrowing portrait of personal trauma and dysfunctional family life and provides an authentic and believable portrait of life within the prison system. It is a novel that reveals its secrets slowly as probation officer Cate Austin builds up a picture of the chain of events that have defined Rose Wilks' personality and ends with a final shocking conclusion. Author Ruth Dugdall does an impressive job of creating complex characters who are capable of terrible actions but who also remain human and sympathetic. Indeed, many of the prison staff emerge as more morally corrupt than the inmates themselves in this intelligent and realistic depiction of life within the penal system. The Woman Before Me has generated praise as a debut novel winning the CWA Debut Dagger Award. The author was also the winner of the 2009 Luke Bitmead Writers Bursary. Impressive in its unflinching realism, this is a dark and haunting psychological thriller that possesses both depth and sensitivity.

The Woman Before Me

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press, £7.99, 9781907461156

Giles Morgan

Posted at 12:54PM Friday 05 Nov 2010

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