The Woman Before Me: Award-winning psychological thriller with a gripping twist

Prize-winning psychological thriller with a gripping twist

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Pub Date 01 Mar 2018 | Archive Date 06 Apr 2018

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Description

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
'Authentic… diverting debut'
The Daily Mail
A clever, sophisticated, psychological crime thriller with dark twists you won’t see coming
Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson, B A Paris and Sophie Hannah

They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.

Rose Wilks' life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Emma Hatcher has all that Rose lacks. Beauty. A loving husband. A healthy son. Until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.

Now, having spent nearly five years in prison in Ipswich, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for her crime, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so... by what means?

New Edition includes exclusive material and author Q&A

REVIEWS

'Dark, disturbing and authentic' CWA Judging Panel

'Ruth Dugdall's novels are intelligent and gripping, with a sophisticated psychological sensibility. She is a huge talent.' Sophie Hannah

'A chilling tale of betrayal and obsession… keeps its secrets well' Publishers Weekly

'Well-plotted… The author understands how to build suspense and create atmosphere' Kirkus

'Tense, taut, almost claustrophobic… full of emotion and suspense' The Bookbag

'A young British crime-writer who uses her career in the Probation Service to stunning effect… gripping and powerful' Mike Ripley, Shotsmag

'An absolute tour de force that left me thinking for days.' Alex Marwood

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
'Authentic… diverting debut'
The Daily Mail
A clever, sophisticated, psychological crime thriller with dark twists you won’t see coming
Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn...

Available Editions

EDITION Ebook
ISBN 9781787198579
PRICE A$8.99 (AUD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 38 members


Featured Reviews

This is the 1st book in the Cate Austin series by author Ruth Dugdall, a series that I have already read and enjoyed two books of. Not quite sure why I didn't start reading this series from the beginning but I enjoy the writing of this author so I was not surprised that I found this one a very good read. The novel focuses on Rose Wilks, whose life is destroyed when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. At the hospital Rose befriends Emma Hatcher, a woman who has all that Rose lacks. Beauty. A loving husband. A healthy son. Until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect. Following nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom and her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for the death of Emma's baby Luke or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement. This is a tragic story but so well told and I found it totally addictive and struggled to put it down. Great characters, well paced and full of twists and turns. Author Ruth Dugdall writes excellent novels and they are consistently of an hI just wish there were more of them to read. I would like to thank Net Galley and Legend Press for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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**Thank you NetGalley and Legend Press for allowing me to read and review!** Rating: 3.5/5 stars Typically when you’re reading a suspense novel, you’d brace yourself for the “Aha!” moment; the moment when your mouth drops open due to the surprise revealed in the story. It’s usually the point in the story where I can no longer put the book down. I MUST finish it. The thrill taking over, the need for answers. In Ruth Dugdall’s The Woman Before Me, there was no “Aha!” Yet from the very first page I could NOT put this book down. I turned page after page until the story was open fully in front of me. All the pieces of a large puzzle coming together quickly as the book neared completion. “My file is in her lap and my fate’s in her hands.” Rose’s tragic childhood shaped her into the woman she’s become. The woman who’s currently sitting tight in prison waiting for her probation officer Cate to approve or deny her an early release. Cate must reopen the case, visiting and re-interviewing Emma, who just happens to be the ex-wife of Rose’s current partner, and Emma’s husband, seeking answers that may have been missed previously. As the case unfolds, Cate is left to decide if Rose deserves a chance at living a normal life or if she still considers Rose to be a threat, keeping her locked away. “My life before you met me, made me what I am.” It’s not very often you read a suspenseful story that you haven’t already read before. The Woman Before Me is unlike any other. I was eager to find out if Rose truly was responsible for the fire that caused the death of Emma’s son, Luke, or if she had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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This was a highly engaging and entertaining story that I practically raced through! Although the topic of the book concerns a crime that took place, it centers more on the emotions of all concerned, and it is the superb way the characters and their circumstances are depicted that really draws you into the story. Cate Austin is a probation officer handling the review for convicted killer Rose Wilks. It's her job to see if Rose should be recommended for release, but Rose still maintains her innocence of the crime. Through Cate, and the journal Rose writes while in prison, we learn exactly what happened and how Rose came to be in her current situation. She is a super character and I swung from loathing her, feeling dreadfully sorry for her and back to detesting her! Most books of this genre say they have a 'shocking twist', but here it is actually true. I never imagined the brilliant and yes, shocking turn the story ended with. You can tell Ruth Dugdall has real life experience in the prison service through her writing here, and it made for a thoroughly authentic 5 star read.

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What a thriller and emotional ride!! This author is freaking amazing when will the book hit the shelves I need to buy this! I was not expecting the ending!

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I absolutely loved this book. it was definitely a page turner. The characters are believable, the story was strong. and it was in parts creepy, especially the stalking aspect. I read the book in a day and didn't see or expect any of the twists and turns. A brilliant book from a fantastic author.

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I started this book mid afternoon and stayed awake until five in the morning just to finish it. I did not expect this book to draw me in as much as it did, especially as it was on my IPad rather than a hard copy. However the skill of Ruth Dugdall submerging you into this world is ridiculous. With me being a mother myself, this made me imagine how I would react if my little boy had been rushed straight to intensive care, and how I would feel to see my replacement with everything that I lacked. This book is insanely addictive and definitely worth 5 Stars.

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A fantastic book that is stimulating and thought provoking. Interesting storyline sees a new probation officer Cate take a new case. She has to decide whether Rose is ready to be released or not. A brilliant plot and storylines all weaved together help you decide for you.

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Although this is the first book in the Cate Austin series,she is essentially just a secondary character.The main protagonist is Rose Wilks who is just weeks away from freedom after spending nearly five years in prison for the murder of her best friend`s baby.As Rose`s probation officer Cate has to decide if Rose is remorseful about baby Luke`s death and wether she remains a threat to society.Despite warnings from her new colleagues Cate finds herself being drawn into Rose`s case and begins to doubt her own judgment. Through entries written in Rose`s black book journal we learn about her life,from a young girl right through to the night of the fire that killed Luke.Rose obviously has major psychological issues but she is also very clever and manipulative.I felt she just wanted someone to love her which was why one of the twists in this story didn't make sense to me.Rose was such a unreliable character that I was never sure wether she was guilty of Luke`s murder or not. The author has drawn on her personal experiences as a probation officer in her depictions of prison culture.The sexist banter between the prison officers,their mistreatment and bullying of the prisoners.How easily you can find yourself being ostracized for caring too much about the treatment of prisoners and if they are guilty or innocent. The story was definitely creepy at times and I did enjoy the story enough that I wanted to finish it but I wouldn't call it a memorable book.To me it was one of those,right I've read that now what's next books but that's just my personal opinion.

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This is an excellent read. The characters are so intriguing and the storyline kept me totally enthralled. It’s well written due to the authors previous experience within the prison system. It’s a definite 5 star read.

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A nice quick mystery thriller read. I really enjoyed this book, read it in just a couple settings. It felt like it just got better and better as the story progressed. Rose is quite the character, she had a horrible childhood and has many many issues. The book begins 5 years after Rose has been incarcerated in prison for the alleged murder of her lover’s ex-wife’s baby son not long after her own small son had died in ICU. When I read this in the description and reviews, I almost decided to skip it, but I am so glad I didn’t. The writing is excellent, the story switches back and forth between Rose’s “Black Book”, which is her life story that she is writing in prison that gives all the background and creepy things that she is capable of and to the present as she prepares for her parole hearing with a new parole officer, Cate. I love books that make you feel the creepy part, and Rose certainly has many creepy thoughts. It was so interesting to hear her explain her logic and the actions she took. There are many faulted people in this book, and surprisingly Rose isn’t the worst one. The ending was done so well, I thought I had it figured out, but there were a few surprises. I would highly recommend if you enjoy a mystery and getting into the mind of an illogical person. I thank Net Galley and Legend Press for allowing me the opportunity to read this book for free for my review.

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I first read this novel in 2015 and really loved it so seeing it was being re-released by Legend Press in 2018 I gave it another read. Ruth Dugdall blew me away with her new novel Humber Boy B so I dived into this one with great gusto. She did not let me down. Ruth has a way of writing that cuts to the very heart of human life and tragedy and moves even the most stoic of us readers. She pulls no punches either. Ruth builds the story block by block, so that you are eager for the next piece of the picture, just when you think you are all complacent she will throw in a new element that challenges where you think the book is going. It's well plotted and really held me to the very end. I was surprised by this book hugely. They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.' Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her is Emma Hatcher, who’s just given birth to Luke. Joel dies and Luke is thriving, until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect. Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgment. Should Rose be recommended for parole? Was she responsible for another baby's death? This is what Cate has to dig into and try to work out, but nothing about this case or the book is clear-cut. The book moves between the mind and thoughts of Rose in prison today and Cate's interactions with her to the past, to where the story leading up to the tragedy begins. You will be hooked once that story starts, you will also think possibly you have this one all figured out a few times over. Stay open-minded dear reader. The reveals and subtle twists as astonishing. It's a book that makes you think about morals, right and wrong, I felt different emotions for Rose all through the book from pity, to empathy to sheer disgust, she is a complex and very flawed character. This is one of those books that you just can't predict and the very ending will just take your breath away. Filled with elements of light and shade, it's so cleverly peeled away to reveal the truth that you doubt yourself a lot of the way. Awesome. Well written, brilliantly plotted, cleverly paced and just a darn good read. I am a big (new) fan of Ruth's writing, I think I will be reading a lot more of her. 4.5 paw prints from the Booklover Catlady for this brilliant book - if you like a psychological thriller with a strong human element and a touch of crime this is one for you.

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First I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for this arc in return for my honest review. This was a devastating injustice and in the same breath justice. I can’t believe two babies suffered passing in this book, all because of adulterous behaviour by two despicable people. Mya they rot in on hell. However the one punished what Rose. And in some cases she deserves to be punished. But she came out but not unexpected by what she did to her own and nor her own.

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Originally published in 2010 and soon to be re-released by Legend Press, The Woman Before Me is the first novel in Ruth Dugdall's Cate Austin series. After serving nearly 5 years of a 8 year sentence, having been convicted following the tragic death of baby Luke Hatcher, Rose Wilks may soon be a free woman. The prison's new probation officer, Cate Austin, has been tasked with writing a report for the panel who have the power to release Rose. But did Rose commit the crime she was convicted of, and will Cate's report help set her free? Told through chapters alternating between the past (Rose's black journal entries) and present (Cate Austin's investigation), we learn that Rose Wilks hasn't had an easy life. Her mother committed suicide. The aunt she was sent to live with died of cancer. And by the age of 16, Rose has been left to find her own way in life. Some years later, Rose has landed a job at a hotel, where she meets and falls in love with Jason. Life is on the up, it seems. Except recently divorced Jason is still in love wth his ex-wife, Emma. Rose knows Jason doesn't love her but couldn't be happier when she falls pregnant with his child. Jason may not love her and still be sleeping with his ex-wife, but his love for their unborn child means he won't leave her and that, for Rose, is enough. Tragedy is set to strike once more, though, when Rose suddenly goes into labour and ends up in surgery; her son, Joel, rushed to intensive care. While recovering from her emergency hysterectomy, and with Joel getting stronger every day, the paths of Rose and Emma collide; Rose recognising Jason's ex-wife from the photograph he still keeps of her in his wallet. Now remarried to Dominic Hatcher, Emma has given birth to a healthy baby boy, Luke. Emma has no idea that it's her former husband that's fathered Rose's baby and Rose wants to keep it that way, ensuring that Jason and Emma don't meet on the ward. With talk of going home ringing in her ears, the last thing Rose expected was the sudden death of Joel. He seemed to be doing so well. After Joel's death, and with Jason retreating into work, unaware that Rose has befriended his ex-wife, Emma and Luke help fill the void, the two women becoming firm friends. Emma is finding it hard to cope with motherhood but fortunately Rose is on hand to help, looking after Luke when Emma can't calm him, and babysitting so Dominic and Emma can spend time together. Until one tragic night when there's a fire at the Hatcher home and baby Luke dies. The fire was, apparently, started by a cigarette - the same brand that Rose smokes. And it isn't long before Rose is arrested for causing Luke's death. But what will Cate's report say? There's little question that Rose has been a model prisoner during her incarceration but is she sufficiently remorseful to be granted parole, or will Rose serve out the remainder of her sentence behind bars? Inspired by a true event, The Woman Before Me is a tragic but brilliantly told tale. The characters are well-developed, the storyline nicely paced and compelling. And the twist at the end left me speechless. That the author herself has experience as a probation officer in Britain shines through in her portrayal of prison culture, and gives Cate Austin such an authentic voice that I've already download, the second book in the series.

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This is a story about the effects of unrequited love, betrayal and loss. It is deliciously unsettling and intensely moving because you don't quite know what has been going on. Skilfully, some of the details have been omitted. It doesn't sit properly and you can't figure out why exactly. Cate Austin who has issues of her own is the probation officer who has to decide if Rose Wilks is ready for parole. Rose has served a four year sentence for the manslaughter of a baby. Is Rose guilty or innocent of the crime? Does she show any remorse? I was quite shocked - goose bump shocked - by life in a woman's prison. One wonders if they are sane when they go in if they can possibly be sane on release. What I thought was a bit rich is how the prisoners are referred to collectively as "cons" or individually by their surnames. It stinks of stripping their identity almost as a ploy to make them subservient. There are so many interesting dimensions to the story, like prison-life, the gay scene, integration and prejudice, the devastation caused by the death of a parent, an interesting part about spiritualism and lots of details about baby care and parenting. It was so vividly drawn I could almost feel and smell the babies. The author uses the sense of smell very effectively to create atmospheres and enhance. authenticity. Shocking ending. To my delight I discover I have Book 2 & 3 in this series already bought and on my Kindle which I didn't know were connected. I only need book 4 to complete the set. Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for a brilliant read and finding a new series.

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Thank you Legend Press for sending me this novel through netgalley. ❤️ 4.5 stars 🌟 I really enjoyed this novel was different then I expected it to be. The ending brought the star rating up as I thought it was a good twist on the novel. I thought the characters were all really like-able and I really liked the main characters rose and cate. Character development was great especially seeing rose’s development of where she came from and the reasons as to why she is they way she is. Would highly recommend to everyone who enjoys psychological thrillers 🙂

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I loved this book! Could not put it down! I read it all in one sitting and afterwards had to take a moment to think over the book. I am glad this is going to be a series, I really liked Cate as a character and am very much looking forward to read more about her!

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This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a review. Don't want to give a thing away. Read this book. Now!! SO great! You won't be able to put it down! Loved! I'd give it 10 stars if I could!!

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The Woman Before Me has been on my radar for some time - it was initially published a few years ago and is now being reissued - but I’d never got around to reading it. I did read a subsequent Ruth Dugdall novel, The Sacrificial Man, which was a riveting read but which I ultimately had mixed feelings about - it was good, but there were a couple of things I had issues with and possibly this initially put me off reading more from this author. Anyway, The Woman Before Me is the first novel featuring Cate Austin, and follows Cate as she begins her new job as a prison-based probation officer. Her first case is that of Rose Wilks - a woman by now four years into a sentence for manslaughter, having been convicted of starting a fire in which a baby died. Now, Rose is up for parole, and it’s Cate’s job to make a recommendation one way or the other. The story is told partly from Cate’s viewpoint as she carries out her assessment of Rose’s complex case and indeed personality, and partly through Rose’s “black book” diaries, in which she recounts her own story, from childhood leading up to the tragic incident for which she was convicted. Rose - a woman who lost her own baby and was subsequently convicted of causing the death of another - is a complicated and fully realised character. Her behaviour can be both alarming and bizarre but it’s also possible to empathise with her at times. The author has worked as a probation officer - a career she determined upon at the age of twelve, as described in an interesting postscript to the edition - and this clearly informs Cate’s experiences of working in the prison. It’s an eye-opening experience for Cate and indeed the reader as she encounters the violence and casual sexism of the prison environment, and an intriguing and frightening insight into that world. The Woman Before Me (I like the title, which is open to differing interpretations) is a compelling and unusual read which I would recommend. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

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The blurb says ' a clever sophisticated psychological thriller', and who am I to disagree! I felt such empathy with the main characters that it was hard not to be sucked in and that made it a tense read! Fantastic!

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This book is a true psychological thriller in all it’s glory. It’s not perfect, one rarely is, but this is as close as it gets. At times it was hard to read the words that so beautifully describe a very sensitive matter but that’s exactly what Ruth did, she made me feel. It’s raw, it’s ugly, it’s harrowing, it’s heartbreaking and it’s beautiful. None of the characters were likeable but that didn’t bother me one bit. Rose is a quite disturbing character, so pathetic at times it made me clench but i wanted to know more about her, she pulls you in to her world and won’t let you go and believe me you will want to go. I enjoyed her black book entries and the letter to Jason which lets us into her broken mind and makes us understand her story. The only issue I had was with Emma’s character, she’s supposed to be this beautiful, attention-grabbing woman but she left no impression on me and I can’t see how she made Jason or Dominic fall madly in love with her with such a simple and plain personality. Other than that, I really enjoyed this read and would definitely recommend to all the mystery lovers out there. Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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WOW! I cannot recommend this book enough! The Woman Before Me by author Ruth Dugdall is an amazing pyschological thriller! I had heard and read a few reviews on it, and when I recieved a Kindle copy I started it to see HOW good it was. Well, I finished it the next day. I couldn't stop reading! The twists, the vibes, the questions and shocking answers! I would absolutely recommend this book to ANYONE! You don't have to like a certain genre to love this book! Worth all 5 stars! ☆☆☆☆☆

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I loved this book. I love mystery and psychological thrillers, this is a good book. Rose Wilk's life is torn apart when her newborn son Joel ends up in intensive care. Emma Hatcher has everything that Rose lacks. She's beautiful, she has a loving husband, and a healthy son. Everything is great until it's not when tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect. Rose goes to jail for five years and now she's getting ready to be released. They are wondering if she's remorseful for her crime or if she's still a threat to society. I wasn't expecting the ending at all.. and I was waiting for the part in the book where I was like "okay.. I have this figured out" but that moment never came. Great book.

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Hi Karen, My Next review is:- “The Woman Before Me)”, Thriller Series With Cate Austin by Ruth Dugdall published in paperback by Legend Press; Revised ed. edition (1 Mar. 2018). 304 pages ISBN-13: 978-1787198586 Emma has everything Rose lacks: a faithful husband, beauty, and a healthy baby boy. Rose meets her in the hospital after her own baby dies from premature birth, and when Emma's child dies in a suspicious house fire shortly after, the obsessive and unstable Rose is the primary suspect. Now, after almost five years in prison, Rose is up for parole, but probation officer Cate Austin must first decide whether this accused murderer can be released or if she really is a threat to society. The answer seems obvious at first, but as Cate delves deeper into Rose's disturbing past--a suicidal mother, a distant father, on her own at a young age--the probation officer becomes entangled in the inmate's dark world. Originally published in August 2006, this book is the first of a series that feature Cate Austin a probation officer working mainly in Suffolk prisons. Winner of CWA Debut Dagger Award and the Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Woman Before Me is a poignant psychological thriller that explores relationships, dysfunctional families, and the penal system with depth and sensitivity that culminates in a shocking conclusion. Did she really do it? Where does the line between love and obsession lie? Can justice be served? I found the story really poignant and very moving although as a male reader I found the preoccupation with baby care and breast feeding rather uncomfortable reading. That aside it was a fascinating story with a surprising ending. I do not think I would read any of her other books in this series but it was unusual and very memorable for it’s authenticity. Recommended. Best wishes, Terry (To be published on eurocrime.co.uk in due course)

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⭐️ This book deserves All the twisty stars ⭐️ 10 ⭐️s!! Here is why: The writing is superb and the format is really interesting because it is written in two POVs: Cate in the present and Rose through her Black Diary. I enjoyed this style and the author truly connected me to the characters. We got to know them without added unnecessary “fluff”. I love a good stalker story and this became one but not in the usual psycho stalker way. I actually felt bad for Rose for about 80% of the book. Her Black Diary written by her, totally pulled at my heart strings which is why this book rocks! Expect the unexpected and hold on to your hats kids because this book takes you for a ride and messes with your emotions!!!!! No more because I don’t want to slip and giveaway the good stuff! Trust me, it’s a chilling story and it’s told really well and it is truly shocking. I look forward to hopefully more books in a Cate series. Thank you #NetGalley, the Publisher and the author Ruth Dugdall for my free ARC in return for my honest review. My review: 10 ⭐️s!!!!

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I devoured this book a month ago and continue to be haunted by it. Dugdall manages to explain the inexplicable and horrifying actions of a wounded and sick woman with expert humanity. In a marketplace packed with "gone girls", missing or abusive husbands, and boilerplate plotting, this novel stands head and shoulders above the scrum of other psychological fiction.

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Thanks Netgalley and the Pub lisher. This is a very powerful read that kept me guessing right to the end. Highly recommend

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A thoroughly enjoyable read full of twists and turns. Thought I’d worked out the plot but was left feeling surprised. Highly recommended

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Great story...lots of guessing and a real page turner ... Brilliant author...would love to read more by her!

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Rose Wilks has been in prison for four long years. Incarcerated for something she didn't do. Another tragic part of a life filled with tragedy and betrayal. Rose is serving a sentence for manslaughter. She is charged with setting a fire that took a baby's life. Rose's life has been a lonely one. At an early age her mother commit suicide and she went to live with her Auntie Ruth. Ruth was a spinster with no children of her own. Her parenting skills were sketchy to say the least. She did love Rose, but her failing health prematurely ended their time together. Shelving her dreams of getting a university education, Rose went to live and work in a local hotel. It is there that she meets and falls in love with Jason, the bartender. Jason, though somewhat attentive to Rose, is still very much in love with his ex-wife, Emma. Where Rose is plain, Emma is beautiful. Fearful of losing Jason, Rose thinks she can make Jason love her. In her effort to do this, she falls pregnant. "I thought we were going to be a normal family, just like I'd always wanted." Rose and Jason have an argument and Rose delivers prematurely. Their tiny son, Joel, is barely clinging to life. Jason and Rose are distraught, upset and apprehensive. Emma Hatcher, Jason's ex-wife is also pregnant. She delivers a son, Luke, and is in the hospital at the same time as Rose. Luke is healthy and thriving - Joel is weak and sickly. Rose rails against the injustice of it, but cannot help but love baby Luke. "There should be a word for it. If I'd lost a husband, I would be a widow. But what is a woman who loses a baby? There is no word." Rose befriends Emma, who has no idea of Rose's relationship with Jason, her former husband. Rose frequently babysits for Emma. She bonds with baby Luke. She even goes so far as to breastfeed him, and to sneak into Emma's house while she is asleep, just to fondly gaze upon Luke in his cot. It is after a night when she has done this, that there is a fire in Emma's house and baby Luke is killed. He was just four month old. Cate Austin is a probation officer. A single mother in her late twenties, Cate has just started working at the Suffolk prison - Rose Wilks is her first case. It is up to Cate to determine if she feels that Rose is a good candidate for early parole. Cate is struggling, and like all single, working mothers, she is riddled with guilt. Her darling little girl is being looked after by a childminder. The little girl's father is now living with another woman. Everything seems like so much effort, like a juggler with too many balls in the air. Can Cate be objective with Rose's case? Will her own parental guilt influence her parole report? Rose Wilks did not start the fire that killed Luke. But just what IS she guilty of? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Like me, you might think you've got this whodunnit all figured out about halfway through. However... you'd be wrong. This novel holds some plot twists that will shock you. The characterization in this novel was very well rendered, causing the reader to empathise with all of the central characters. The author employed complicated emotional subterfuge to make the impact of her plot twists more deeply felt. This novel about three women, is about mothering, about loss, and about parental guilt. Written in a way that is articulate and compelling, this is the second novel by this author that I have read. Lucky me. Ruth Dugdall has written several other books including three other titles in the Cate Austin series, so I have lots of great reading ahead. Highly recommended.

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The Woman Before Me. Ruth Dugdall takes an unusual slant on crime investigation with probation officer Cate Austin. She’s assigned the case of Rose Wilks, jailed for the manslaughter of a baby boy. The novel describes the events that lead to Rose’s conviction and Cate’s uncovering of the truth, which proves even more disturbing than it initially appears. Rose’s unhappy childhood, is told in heart-breaking detail, as is the rejection by her family and her futile attempts at forming friendships. After the death of her premature son, she becomes obsessed with Luke, a healthy baby born at the same maternity unit. Her obsession leads to tragedy. Cate’s role is to assess Rose’s application for parole. Is she ready for release, when she won’t admit her guilt? The Woman Before Me is a more nuanced approach to crime, punishment and what leads individuals to carry out unspeakable acts. It evokes the violence and hierarchy of prison, its mostly pitiful inhabitants and the callous disposition of the staff. The narrative is meandering but delivers a vicious kick at the end.

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