Monday 4 November 2013

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall *New Edition from Legend Press*

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

On 31 October 2013, Legend Press published a new edition of the brilliant The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall. The book was originally published in August 2010 and the novel has gone on to sell over 45000 copies in the UK, with fans of the book right across the globe. 
The book was the winner of the 2nd ever Luke Bitmead Bursary and was also the winner of the much coveted and admired CWA Debut Dagger prize. This new edition celebrates the success of the book through word of mouth and includes exclusive added content including a brand new chapter, an author interview and author mini-essay.

The Woman Before Me is a psychological thriller that is hauntingly dark and bleak, there is absolutely nothing pleasant contained within this story, yet it is a compelling and at times, very addictive.  It kept me reading until the late hours.
Rose Wilks is serving a prison sentence for the manslaughter of a young baby.  The victim, Luke, is the child of a woman that Rose befriended whilst she was in hospital herself, when she gave birth to her own son Joel. Rose had a difficult labour and Joel was very sick when he was born.  He didn't survive.
Cate Austen is the mother of a young daughter.  She's also Rose's probation officer, and it is her job to determine whether Rose should be released from prison.  
As Cate and Rose edge around each other, trying to work each other out, the reader is privy to Rose's 'black book'; her secret diary that explains everything about both the crime, and about how Rose became the woman that she is today.
Manipulation and unreliability could be Rose's middle names, her story appears credible, but always, in the background, there is that nag of doubt about Rose and her story.  Whilst I admit that I'd just about worked out the truth behind the story, the double-whammy shock of the truth exposed at the end of the novel was both unexpected and very cleverly done.  The belief that the reader has developed over the course of the story is shattered completely.
Ruth Dugdall has drawn on her personal experiences as a probation officer when writing this novel, and this shows.  The culture of prison life is starkly told, the institutional sexism, the bullying, the difficulties of being a staff member who cares; all depicted very well, and all adding to the overall tension of the novel.
This is a chilling story, of betrayal, of lies and of obsession.  At times uncomfortable due to the nature of the crime, but it's compulsive.   I will certainly be looking out for Ruth Dugdall's other novels.
My thanks to Lucy from Legend Press who sent my copy for review.
Ruth Dugdall is the author of The Woman Before Me, The Sacrificial Man and The James Version.  She studied a BA (Hons) degree in English and Theatre Studies at Warwick University, and then an MA in Social Work at UEA.  She worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade, working in prisons with numerous high-risk criminals.  Her writing is heavily influenced by her professional background, providing authenticity and credibility to the crime genre.
Visit Ruth Dugdall at and follow her on Twitter @RuthDugdall.    Follow Legend Press on Twitter @Legend_Press or find out more at


  1. This novel sounds brilliant. Thanks for alerting me to it Anne - you've really sold this one to me with another fine review.

  2. Ruth Dugdall's books have been forgotten on my Kindle for far too long - great review Anne, and must pull them to the top again. Don't know if you saw it, but Ruth was on Four In A Bed recently... Anne x

  3. I love all of Ruth Dugdall's books but this one is my favourite I think.