20 July 2022

Review: BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME, Jacqueline Bublitz

  • This edition made available through my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Allen & Unwin (4 May 2021) 
  • 336 pages
  • Longlisted CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year 2022 AU; Longlisted Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, ABIA Awards 2022 AU; Longlisted General Fiction Book of the Year, ABIA Awards 2022 AU; Shortlisted MUD Literary Prize 2022 AU; Longlisted Dublin Literary Award 2022 IR
  • Read the Opening Chapter

Synopsis (publisher)

This is not just another novel about a dead girl.

When she arrived in New York on her 18th 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, an unidentified murder victim.

Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice's body by the Hudson River.

From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life - and death. And Ruby - struggling to forget what she saw that morning - finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.

Before You Knew My Name doesn't ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.

My Take

We know from the first page of this novel that the narrator will die in this city, New York. Alice Lee arrives on a bus on her 18th birthday. She has an address to go to, Noah whom she found online, and with whom she has booked two weeks accommodation. So the first mystery is to find out the circumstances in which she dies. It is fairly clear that she is murdered. 

The second character we meet is Ruby Jones, 36 year old Australian from Melbourne, trying to re-establish her life. So the first half of the book is spent in fleshing out these characters, and exploring what they are making of their lives.

It is a little over 30% of the way through the book that Ruby discovers Alice's body and her life is changed forever. Ruby feels that she cannot rest until she discovers who killed Alice. Without her knowledge, Alice is helping her.

There! I am not going to tell you anymore! I hope I haven't spoilt the story for you, but I don't think I have told you any more than the publisher's blurb did. Along the way we think a lot about the vulnerability of women and girls.

This novel reminded me strongly of THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Seebold. That was published in 2002.

From Wikipedia:
It is the story of a teenage girl who, after being raped and murdered, watches from her personal Heaven as her family and friends struggle to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her own death. The novel received critical praise and became an instant bestseller. A film adaptation, directed by Peter Jackson, who personally purchased the rights, was released in 2009. The novel was also later adapted as a play of the same name, which premiered in England in 2018.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Kiwi. Melburnian. Aunt. Lover of rain, red wine, key changes and New York. Writer of books that explore love, loss, and connection. Book Two coming soon!
Jacqueline 'Rock' Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often. She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection.

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