Before You Knew My Name

Jacqueline Bublitz

Before You Knew My Name
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Before You Knew My Name

Jacqueline Bublitz

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.

‘Beautiful, brilliant and strangely joyous will have you in its thrall … from its powerful first page to its superb conclusion.’ Rose Carlyle, author of Girl in the Mirror

‘The most wonderful book. Unusual, beautiful, feminist, gripping, deserves to win prizes. I loved it so much’. Marian Keyes, author of Grown Ups

 

Review

This stunning debut is one of the best books I’ve read this year (so far). Melbourne-based author Jacqueline Bublitz has crafted a haunting story about grief, limbo, transition and friendship that’s by far the most literary of this month’s crime picks. Echoing Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, this finely crafted novel traces the stories of Alice and expat Melburnian Ruby Jones, as told by the spectral Alice, whose tragic death kicks off this book.

After a period of stagnation in which Ruby realises the futility of her own position as ‘the other woman’ in an illicit affair, she escapes to New York to give herself physical and emotional distance, only to find herself even more alone. A newcomer to the city, she is shocked to encounter a body in a nearby waterway while out jogging. Seeking to make sense of this distressing discovery, Ruby is drawn to learn more about this unknown young woman, and a new tribe of friends offer support and strength in her efforts to provide this Jane Doe with some dignity and respect in death. As Ruby’s sense of autonomy and self begins to flourish, brief encounters with a sharply-dressed, smooth-talking man threaten to destabilise her newfound security, provoking conflicting feelings about her distant lover and new, local love interest.

This book is imbued with sadness, mostly tied to Alice’s unfortunate end and her status as an unknown Jane Doe in the morgue. For all that occurred during Alice’s short and troubled life, in death she leaves an indelible mark. Both Alice and Ruby have had their lives ruined physically and emotionally by dreadful men, but Bublitz’s narrative also offers a sense of optimism and redemption. Like Louise Doughty’s Platform Seven, this literary crime novel reads as a moving meditation on the loss of women to male violence, as well as the resolve it takes (manifested by Ruby’s actions) to bring about justice.


Julia Jackson is the assistant shop manager at Readings Carlton.

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