The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall

Chilling and heartbreaking, The Woman Before Me is a story of loss and grief with a hearty dose of misogyny.

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall

Genres: Psychological Thriller
Published: 28th August, 2010
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon UK
Series: Cate Austin #1
Rating: 3.5

‘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?

Although Cate Austin is the main character in Ruth Dugdall’s series, in this story she kind of takes a back seat to Rose Wilks who is currently serving time in prison for manslaughter after killing her friend’s baby. Allegedly.

Cate is just returning to her parole officer job after a six months absence and is being transferred to the prison where Rose is being held. She’s intrigued by the case and Rose’s insistence on being innocent, but her reluctance to provide further details that could help her getting parole is baffling.

As the author switches between the past and the present, the story is slowly revealed through Rose’s diary entries and we get to know quite a bit of her life. Neglected, orphaned at a young age, uneducated, emotionally unstable, she didn’t have an easy one, and then the loss of her newborn baby sends her spiraling into despair that is described so vividly, you can’t not feel her raw pain. But her boyfriend is standing by her throughout this ordeal. At least she has that going for her, am I right?

In addition to being a solid psychological thriller, The Woman Before Me also gives a great insight into the daily life of inmates in a British prison. It’s not nice, I must say. Don’t go to prison, guys! Lack of privacy, stupid schedules for literally everything and, you know, zero freedom could make the strongest of us go nuts a tiny bit.

Working in said prison doesn’t sound like a better deal either and Cate seems to be surrounded by a bunch of assholes for colleagues. There was not a single likable person there, save Paul, the other parole officer who is at least friendly, but nevertheless adresses Cate as ‘babe’ from the get go. The other prison officers call her ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’, spread nasty rumours about her, and of course you get your obligatory violent piece of shit who finds joy in torturing the inmates for fun. Of course this is good for shock value, but doesn’t seem very realistic.

With slowly mounting tension The Woman Before Me is a highly enjoyable psychological thriller that packs a real punch with a ‘You did what now?’ twist at the end that ties up the whole story rather neatly.



  1. I really like the sound of this one. The prison angle sounds interesting though hard to read because of the hardships and what you hinted about a character being cruel to inmates. Sounds like my kind of book though. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d like it!
      Dunno if you watched Orange is the New Black, but it was like all prison employees in this book were like Pornstache in terms of personality…


      1. OMG Pornstache used to make my skin crawl and Joan on Wentworth. Can’t imagine how bad the employees in this book were. I get why you said the portrayal wasn’t very realistic. Not all guards can be that mean. I love OINTB, part of the reason I think I’d like this book. Thanks for this wonderful review.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It was quite different!
      I found out yesterday that the author actually worked in a prison at some point and some of the things she described actually happened there. I find this quite sad and scary.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely liking the premise of this book. Exploring character’s past and shedding some light on prison experience sounds like something I may enjoy.
    PS. My bf studied forensic psychology and visited many prisons – some of his stories are pretty disturbing as well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, how interesting!
      It’s quite disturbing to think about 😦 I’m sure there are decent people working in prisons too, at least i hope so, but i guess there are assholes everywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

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