Monday, 26 February 2018

The Woman Before Me - Ruth Dugdall

Seven years since this book was first published and the wonderful Legend Press have the foresight to  reissue this gripping thriller. It has already won several awards and with good reason. 

The story introduces the character of Cate Austin who features in subsequent novels of Ms. Dugdall. Cate is a probation officer who has to decide whether Rose Wilks convicted of child manslaughter should be considered for parole based on whether she is remorseful for the death of the child. I veer away from anything that might resemble a spoiler so I’ll say no more than that.

But what I will say is that this is an very well plotted story giving us parallel accounts; Cate’s is in familiar third person narrative and Rose’s true account is given in a first person narrative and in the  form of her ‘Black Book’ entries written for her partner, Jason, and allows the reader to witness with Rose the unfurling of what actually happened. It’s very much a ‘did she, didn’t she’, ‘will she,wont she’ type story but when that is well done it is delicious to read. And it’s well done here with a twist at the end which I found curiously subliminal in that I half suspected it but ultimately rejected it. 

The specific prison locations and protocols were authentic and believable, well researched but then I find that Ms. Dugdall was herself a probation officer. What was that they used to tell us in school? Write about what you know. Well, here is the perfect example and the more believable for it. 

It’s dark and disturbing but keeps the reader gripped throughout. I didn’t find any of the characters especially engaging or likeable, especially Rose but I’m not sure I was supposed to. I think it was necessary to remain dispassionate almost. But paradoxically there is a lot of emotion in the book especially for mothers and an all embracing sadness that speaks of things that should have been avoidable but never were, wrong places, wrong times, recipes for disaster.

It’s an easy read, undemanding in terms of a well paced, flowing narrative and a most pleasant way to while way a few hours. So if you’re finding yourself snowbound this week grab yourself a copy!!

Many thanks to Imogen Harris at Legend Press for the opportunity to read this novel.

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