The Woman Before Me (Cate Austin #1)

About the Author

Ruth studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. Following this she worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Part of this time was spent seconded to a prison housing serious offenders. She continues to work within the Criminal Justice System, most recently in Luxembourg.


“There should be a word for it. If I’d lost a husband, I would be a widow. But what is a woman who loses a baby? There is no word.”

This was my first Ruth Dugdall book and it blew me away because the first book in the Cate Austin series really makes you invest. Cate has been assigned to a jail as a probation officer and has been given her first case – an inmate by the name of Rose Wilkes. Cate has to listen to Rose’s story (Rose has been charged with manslaughter – of her friend’s Emma Tatcher’s four month old baby), understand if there is genuine remorse and if there is, Rose will get an early release. Rose understands that the course of her fate lies in Cate’s hands but prison is familiar ground for her since she’s spent years there. For Cate, however, prison is a rude shock. The guards, the inmates and the case take time for her to adjust and Rose is not an easy person to read. Cate is struggling, and like all single, working mothers, she is riddled with guilt. Her daughter is looked after by a childminder and the father is now living with another woman. Can Cate be objective with Rose’s case? Will her own parental guilt influence her parole report?

Rose’s life, on the other hand, has been a lonely one. At an early age her mother commit suicide and she went to live with her Auntie Ruth but her failing health prematurely ended their time together. Shelving her dreams of getting a university education, Rose went to live and work in a local hotel. It is there that she meets and falls in love with Jason, the bartender.  Jason, though somewhat attentive to Rose, is still very much in love with his ex-wife, Emma.  Where Rose is plain, Emma is beautiful.  Fearful of losing Jason, Rose thinks she can make Jason love her. In her effort to do this, she falls pregnant. Emma is also pregnant at the same time and in the same hospital but Rose delivers prematurely and her child, Joel is weak and sick while Emma delivers a healthy baby boy, Luke. Rose hates the injustice of it all.

There is something dark and disturbing in the way Ruth Dugdall manages to write about the dark side of a woman’s thoughts. I think we all have those feelings within us with different extremities. But while reading this book, we recognize that they are there nevertheless. It is a sobering and a scary thought – this fine balance between love and obsession.

If you need a book that has pace, depth, thrill and suspense – this book is a gem and will stay on your shelf for a while – one to take down whenever you are ready to be shook.