Cover Image: Before the Ruins

Before the Ruins

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123 pages into the book and I made the decision to give up on it. I just couldn't spend any more time on this story that seemed so pointless. Andy is all over the place between David and Marcus. And her search of best friend Peter disappearance doesn't seems to go anywhere. I read in the synopsis that this is the story of a group of friends.. I could not feel the friendship among those young folks. Not a single thing or character made me try to pull through. I am giving it a one star sine nothing impressed me about this book.

Thank you Net Galley and Henry Hold and Company for this e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I wrote about or featured this title on my blog and will provide the details directly to the publisher in the next round of this review process.
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I felt like this was overwritten. Too many literary flourishes and not enough character development. I just didn't care about anyone so it wasn't enough to engage in the writing.
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When Andy is told that her childhood friend Peter is missing, she decides to play detective to find him.  While unearthing clues about his present whereabouts, she finds herself thrust back to their childhood.

A group of teenagers find a stranger on the run camped out at an unoccupied Manor and quickly envelope him into their group of misfits.  Local legend tells a story of the Manor, a mysterious death, a stolen necklace.  The group begins to play a game, reenacting the the legend bit by bit.

One day the stranger vanishes and the game ends, only to be brought back years later.  After a hunting party, turns hunting accident, the group finds themselves reunited with the stranger and his new friends and the game is brought back into play, only this time, the game resembles more of the legend that anyone planned.

This is a story of the past coming back to haunt you, of unfinished business and undiscovered treasure.  A very interesting read, beautifully written.   

The one draw back is that there are so many threads that not all of them weave together into a satisfying ending.   3.5 Stars
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Victoria Gosling's debut novel has some great characters and excellent prose but was way too slow to hold my interest for very long. The multiple timelines were easy enough to follow but I thought the story kind of meandered without direction at times.
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This book is very difficult to describe but I enjoyed it. However, I found it very slow and difficult to get into and lost track of the timelines and characters easily. Thank you so much for my advanced copy.
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From debut author Victoria Gosling comes BEFORE THE RUINS, a dark, multilayered gothic mystery set in and around a ruinous manor, filled with forgotten crimes and the dreams of four young people.

The year is 1996, and teens Andy, Peter and Em are best friends, drinking cheap beer, smoking hash and playing childhood games in a deserted manor house with a sordid history. Accompanying them and helping them bridge the gap to the adult world is Marcus, Andy’s boyfriend, who not only drives Andy and her friends around in his van, but helps Andy get a job with his uncle Darren. Though they have plenty to do around town, in school and preparing for adulthood, Andy focuses the group’s interest on a mystery.

Years earlier, an expensive diamond necklace was stolen from the manor, and though a suspect was found (dead, inconveniently), the necklace has never been located, and rumor has it that it is still hidden in the manor or on its grounds. The game is childish, certainly, but for Andy it is all-important. Her mother is unwell, neglectful and often mean, and she keeps warning Andy that the apocalypse is near. Andy doesn’t believe her mother, not exactly. The end of her world as she knows it is approaching rapidly: Peter will be going to Oxford soon, Em will be off to study and make art, and she doesn’t feel the all-encompassing love for Marcus that could allow her to feel secure in their future together.

And then a boy turns up at the manor. David is charming, handsome (but not unbearably so) and mysterious. He tells Andy and her group that he is doing a runner, having accidentally stolen from a teacher on a school trip, and is hiding out in the manor, which belongs to his friend’s family. There are holes in his story, but he adds a sense of mystery and mayhem to the already noteworthy summer. Before long, Andy realizes that she is in love with him. But so is Peter. As the five young men and women hunt for the missing necklace and make plans for their futures, lines are crossed, secrets traded and trusts betrayed. Before they realize it, David goes missing and the group moves on, forever changed by that summer.

When we meet Andy again, she is an adult, and though she still sees Peter from time to time, the group they once loved has fallen apart. Still, it is a shock to Andy when she gets a call from Peter’s mother and learns that he has been missing for at least four weeks. As Andy tries to find him, she revisits that disastrous summer and everything that came after it, asking herself how well she ever really knew Peter --- or any of them, for that matter, including herself.

Jumping between the past, present and everywhere in between, Andy starts looking for Peter, certain that there are clues to his disappearance that she missed along the way. But her search becomes far more introspective than she expected, as she dives into her most painful memories, group fights she ignored and love triangles she didn’t realize existed. It is almost as though Peter’s disappearance takes the backburner, with Andy’s hunt for the truth --- all truths --- taking the lead.

As a mystery, BEFORE THE RUINS is fairly predictable, though no less engrossing for it. Gosling handles the gothic, the tragic and the unexplainable well, often tackling multiple storylines at once and weaving them together for a grand reveal. But the book is not only --- or even mostly --- a mystery. It is much more an examination of adulthood and the disappointments that come with it. Andy’s journey from rough-and-tumble teen to sought-after professional is both shocking and painfully familiar, and I have no doubt that her ennui will resonate with readers of a certain age. Combining the real mysteries at the heart of the book with the all-encompassing, unsolvable mystery of adulthood makes this novel heady and dreamy, much more than your average English mystery.

Although I enjoyed the general plot and found much to love about the characters, especially Andy, I was often distracted by the writing. Gosling’s prose is poetic in style, and though there were several lovely passages, I often found myself distanced from the heart of the book trying to figure out what she was saying. There were times when I was not sure who was speaking --- an important fact in a group of five! --- and I had to reread sections to be sure. I would read another novel by Gosling, but I’d like to see her try her hand at something less plot-based and more character-driven, for that is where she truly shines.
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2.5 stars   I love a Gothic mystery, but, for me, this just wasn't it. I didn't feel the characters were flushed out well, they were just superficial. While this one had a good premise, it ultimately failed to deliver. The storytelling was wordy and at times, confusing. I'm not sure if I would read another book by this author.

**Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley in exchange of an honest review.**
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In “Before the Ruins” by Victoria Gosling we see a story that brings together four “friends” as they spend their summer at a deserted manor.  When they hear a story about a diamond necklace gone missing at the manor some fifty years ago, they set out to find it and create their own version of a treasure hunt.  But there are more secrets and lies then any of them could imagine hidden within the grounds of the manor.  And as they unravel decades later no one is prepared for the fallout.  

I received this book through NetGalley and this is my honest review.
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This book was very difficult for me to get into, and in the end I was not able to make myself finish it. It is a slow build kind of thriller, which ordinarily I would rather enjoy, but it's also very atmospherically depressing. Effective writing! But not the kind I am able to make myself read at present.
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I was hesitant to read this book due to a large number of 1 or 2 star reviews but decided to try my luck and read it anyway. I am so lucky that I did. I really enjoyed this book. It is not your conventional thriller or mystery and the story did have to build until you get to any real "clues". But as Gosling wrote in the book, the only life and death that you'll ever truly investigate is your own. No matter what I read, whether it was a paragraph or a page and I was completely absorbed. The book did reach a climax and resolution at the end that I thought was worth waiting for. I even wrote down quotes from this book that stuck with me. This book was beautifully written and Victoria Gosling shows that she truly has a gift. Thank you for allowing me early access to this title, Netgalley.
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BEFORE THE RUINS is Victoria Gosling's debut novel, and it's a very accomplished, assured one at that.

The novel follows a group of four friends: Andy, Marcus, Peter, and Em. When they were younger, they decided to spend a night at a mysterious, abandoned manor. While there, they meet David, who Andy and Peter come to be rather taken/fascinated by. The events of that night will end up echoing throughout the years to follow.

Gosling's prose is excellent. The characters are well-drawn, three-dimensional, and their interactions realistic and engaging. The plot is well structured and executed, and I was gripped from early on.

I can certainly understand the comparisons to Tana French and Donna Tartt, and if you're a fan of those two authors, then you should certainly give BEFORE THE RUINS a try. I enjoyed this, and am looking forward to reading whatever else the author comes up with in the future. Recommended.
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This is a beautifully-written, atmospheric character study, coming of age story, and mystery. The writing reminds me somewhat of Tana French’s novels. The complicated relationships between the principal characters are well-developed and the sense of place throughout the story is nicely foreboding and sinister.

Andrea (Andy) is a girl from the rough part of town. Her daredevil actions and relationships are mostly motivated by anger. Her mother is an alcoholic, and her mother's boyfriend, Joe, is a dangerous man, bad news for Andy. Her only friend is the sensitive, bullied son of the local vicar, Peter. The two friends become exceptionally close throughout their difficult childhood. In later years, Marcus, the nephew of Andy's boss, and Em, a newcomer to town, join their small circle of friends. Their games center around the Manor, a dilapidated mansion little more than a ruin on the outskirts of town. Later in their teens, a boy on the run from prison joins them, shifting the group dynamic as both Andy and Peter fall in love with him. One morning after an evening scavenger hunt at the manor, Em is found dead in front of the house. 

The repercussions on the group of friends from this event reach far into the future. The story, told from Andy's point of view, shifts timelines between the present day and the past as the events leading up to and following the tragedy gradually reveal themselves in the narrative. The characters are strong and the suspense builds nicely throughout. The novel's language is unusual, evocative, and poetic in places. 

I loved the book and highly recommend it.
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When Andy and her friends were teenagers, they ran around feeling free and playing games. Even into high school, she and Peter and Em and Marcus would create games for themselves, playfully dancing around or solving mysteries or telling stories. 

Near their small town was a rundown manor. Once, it has been the home of posh socialites. Now it’s in disrepair and overgrown. As their time in school drew closer and closer to its end, Andy and her friends spent more time there. Before Peter was going off to Oxford, before Em went to art school. before Marcus and Andy went to work for Marcus’s uncle Darren full-time, they spent time together at the manor. That is where they met David. 

David was a friend of the new owners of the manor. He was just a year or two older and, having run out on a school trip to Italy (where he may have liberated a teacher’s credit card and cash), now he’s squatting at the manor. The friends draw David into their favorite game, a game of hide and seek. 

Back when the manor belonged to the rich couple, there was a snowy weekend where they invited friends for a couple of days of drinking and spending time together. But one weekend night, the lady of the house discovered that her diamond necklace was missing. The thief was discovered by the pond out back, his tracks in the snow showing he walked to the front gate (speculation was that he was to meet a conspirator, who would pick him up, but the snow made the road undriveable), and then to the back. He was found frozen on a bench, with his heart medicine in his hands. The necklace was never found, not on his body nor anywhere else his tracks had shown. 

Em had found a replica of the necklace at the charity shop in town (the story had been big news across the area, and replica necklaces were made by the hundreds), and the teens would hide it and seek it out over and over. Meanwhile, both Peter and Andy found themselves attracted to David, but Andy was the one who won his heart. It was the last summer the friends had together, the only summer Andy had with David, and it changed all of them. 

Now it’s many years later. Andy is grown and working in London when she gets the call from Peter’s mother. Peter didn’t call when he usually did that weekend, or the weekend before. Andy said she’d try to get ahold of him, and that’s when she finds out that no one has seen him for weeks. 

Andy’s search for her childhood friend takes her back to her childhood, both to the manor and to the places she went to the manor to escape. Her journey is a reckoning of sorts, as she looks for her friend by exorcising all their former demons. But will Andy’s search for Peter put her and those around her in a danger that she can’t escape from? 

Before the Ruins is a thriller about a search for a missing man, but it is also an atmospheric exploration of the choices we make as teenagers that stick with us for the rest of our lives. Author Victoria Gosling has crafted a story that is part coming of age, part coming to terms, that will infect your thoughts and your dreams and your conversations for weeks to come. 

The book isn’t all that long for a thriller (less than 300 pages), but it feels like it’s twice as long. The emotional depth these characters go to and the powerful memories they uncover are weighty with a pathos that transcends story and characters. As I read it, I found myself thinking about Tana French’s In the Woods, and I honestly can’t think of a higher compliment than that. Gosling is masterful as a story teller, and she left me wrecked for days after finishing Before the Ruins. I can’t wrap my head the fact that this is her first novel. I can’t even begin to imagine where she will take us next. 

Egalleys for Before the Ruins were provided by Henry Holt & Company through NetGalley, with many thanks.
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I just couldn't get into the book. I tried to like it but I just found myself putting it down.  

I really wanted to like this as it sounded intriguing but I DNF
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The Mystery of a Dark Past: A Review of Victoria Gosling’s Before the Ruins
In Victoria Gosling’s “Before the Ruins,” five teenagers hung around a crumbling, abandoned manor house near Avebury, England, where a less-famous stone henge stands. The two girls and three boys half-heartedly searched for a diamond necklace that was lost decades before. The moody, gothic atmosphere enhances this very English mystery.

The girl that the small group looked to for approval and entertainment, Andy, has grown into a stable woman—a far cry from the abused and impoverished girl that found solace amongst her friends as a child. She’s also grown away from her friends—when Peter’s mother calls asking for her help to find him, she’s reluctant to get involved. She hints darkly about the past. “We’ve never really spoken about what happened at the manor. Not just… I mean all of it.” Poor Andy is trying to keep her bottled feelings locked deep down, but searching for Peter reminds her of her miserable youth, “When I was the rough kid with a kitchen-scissors haircut, hunched over my free school dinner.” Her friends provided a respite from her alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, and “the game,” searching for the diamonds, was a pleasant way to wile away the hours, with the added fantasy that they’d be rich if they found them.

Gosling weaves easily between Andy’s youth and present-day Andy with her heels and financial security. The group of friends recalls that most-chased-after dream-group—the friends in Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History.” A chosen family for some, fierce and loyal, these friends provide what the world outside can’t and won’t. Unprotected at home, Andy feels safe with these friends, safe with their parents. At Emily’s house, a loving mother and sister provide a glimpse into another world. “Lady. Girl. Female. Woman. Each of the words made you feel a bit different, act a bit different, even, when it was applied to you. They weren’t the only words for us, of course, only at Em’s house it was possible to forget the other words existed.” Later she experiences the bounds of her gender even more profoundly.

As she stands in a dressing room, shopping for an outfit to impress, she looks in the mirror critically. “There was something archetypal about it. All those women, across the world—women in Paris and Moscow, Lagos and Sydney—women throughout time—at the court of Louis XIV, in Weimar Berlin, in sixties San Francisco—and all of them, having that moment, the moment of self-appraisal before their reflection. If the clothes passed the right code, if they accentuated what you had, if they disguised what you lacked: beauty, money, class, confidence, youth.” Gosling not only excels in writing a mystery steeped in British history, but a mystery of this woman—how did she overcome what happened to her as a child, how did she become this person she is now?

Before the Ruins
Victoria Gosling
Henry Holt & Company, 288 pages
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This book is a debut novel by Gosling.  It was beautifully written.  I was either really distracted, or just could not concentrate on the plot of the story, but the detail was great.
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Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling is a coming-of-age mystery about Andy, her friends, and their search for a missing diamond necklace.  The search is not as important as all the secrets that these friends have.  This story was rather slow-going, but the writing was lovely.  Here's a quote:  "We grow up but the games go on.  Work, relationships, belonging to a religion, being left or right, having a class or gender, or interests, a personality even, they all seemed like games begun long ago, far back among the mists of time, played ceaselessly, routinely, and with neither end nor prizes in sight.  Each day, less convincing."  I enjoyed the writing, but I wish there had been more of a focus on the various mysteries.  Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy.  All opinions are my own.
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This book was less of a mystery than a character study.  It was a slow start for me, while many of the descriptions esp in hte beginning were lovely, it felt like too much description and not enough storyline.  I did get involved in it and enjoyed it, but it was more of a slow burn
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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