Saturday, October 29, 2022

Before You Knew My Name

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz
11/1/22; 320 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz is a recommended murder mystery.

Alice Lee arrived in NYC with nothing but $600 and a stolen camera and ended up dead a month later. Ruby Jones leaves Australia and arrives in NYC at the same time. Ruby is the one to find Alice's body by the Hudson River. While Alice is a Jane Doe, Ruby becomes consumed with finding out her identity and what happened to her. Alice follows Ruby and silently encourages her to find out the answer to her murder as well as learn to set boundaries in her life.

Alice narrates her part of the novel from the grave, and her spirit tells her story and her encouragement of Ruby's search for the truth. Both are running away from bad relationships, although the kind of bad relationship is quite different. Alice was definitely being used/abused. She had a tragic background and made a poor choice encouraged by an adult who should be held responsible. Ruby was a knowing participant in her problematic relationship with a man already in a relationship.

The focus of the novel is the tragedy of Alice's life being cut short, and Ruby suffering from the trauma of finding Alice's body while caring about the identity of the young woman. The guilty party is evident right after being introduced. While examining loneliness, loss, love, interpersonal connections, and the ability of humans to survive and recover, the novel moves at a slow pace in the beginning and it is a slog to get through to the point where the narrative picks up some speed. Additionally, these two characters are not intriguing individuals and the narration from beyond the grave felt gimmicky rather than groundbreaking.

Before You Knew My Name is an okay novel with potential that was unrealized. It is an interesting murder mystery that is easily forgettable. I'm unable to fathom the rave reviews and having a problematic time looking at this as a groundbreaking novel. There have been other novels that cover the pertinent topics much better. The quality of the writing will certainly have me reading another novel by Bublitz.

The description of NYC as the real world and the dismissal of the star spangled flags from small town
America at the beginning of the novel was an immediate turn-off. After many visits to the Big Apple, I'm always happy and grateful to leave. Always. Especially now.  It is hardly the real world. Great place to visit and then leave.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books via NetGalley

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