Just when I said that I don’t really read female psychological thrillers then I go and get myself a copy of another one. But, I mean, reading this synopsis, wouldn’t you?
This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.
When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.
Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.
Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?
The cover also helps. ?
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz was a really compelling read. Written in the voice of the dead eighteen year old, it recounts Alice’s troubled life and her observation of Ruby’s current experience. She speaks to the reader and about everyone who her life, and now her death, touches. Chapters begin with statements like “Tomorrow, I will be dead.” and “In the hours before I die,” alternating between telling the story of how she got to New York and the story of how she left it forever.
Some of the nuances that made this book compulsively readable were the dual newcomer-to-New-York stories and the acute observations of the ways in which women are still required to tailor their lives to the wants and whims of the men surrounding them. One, obviously, much more enjoyable than the other, but the latter done in such a way as to be infuriatingly relatable to female readers.
What neither of us said, what none of us say: You took up all the space. I didn’t know how to say no and you never waited for my yes. I need you to leave me alone now. We swallow the words and the warning bells, so that we take on the doubt, dismiss what we know to be true. We demur, placate. Say just enough and smile just enough and let them touch us just enough, hoping the moment will pass.
How Alice and Ruby are connected isn’t a spoiler that I’m going to give away here, although it is hardly the most gripping discovery contained within the story. Some details that I clearly misread for clues took me down a whole different path with my suspicions, but I was appropriately satisfied with the outcome. That said, in hindsight, the outcome was hardly the point. Bubiltz did a thorough job of allowing the victim to own her story and her death, leaving very little attention devoted to the person who caused it.
One of the more rewarding features of the book were the social connections made throughout. There is a network, the Death Club, that is born from the tragedies suffered by people who are still living and the love and support that grows through the sharing of loss and of trauma. The book is a mystery, but it isn’t so much about solving the crime as it is about the way that this crime ripples through the lives of so many others. It leaves a lingering sadness in the reader.
From what I can tell, Before You Knew My Name was previously published in Australia last year, but will be published in North America on November 1st, 2022. Thank you to the team at Atria Books who made this available to me via NetGalley.