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‘All too often crime novels start with the body of a woman—the Jane Doe, or nameless victim—which then becomes the vehicle for another person’s story or character study—the cop, the coroner, the investigator etc—while the actual victim remains nothing more than the catalyst for the story. This extraordinary novel tells a very different story. It’s not about Whodunnit (though we do find that out, and very satisfyingly), but instead asks Who was she? And who did she leave behind? The murdered woman, Alice, is the voice of Before You Knew My Name, and the other main character, Ruby, is the woman who finds her body while jogging in the park. This connection forges an indelible bond between them, as Alice helps Ruby reconnect with the world and leads her to find the killer. It is not until the world knows Alice’s name that she can rest in peace.

Before You Knew My Name is one of the most emotionally charged and beautiful debut novels I’ve ever read and I think it going to be loved by many readers. It is many books in one: a fierce feminist thriller, a celebration of women and female friendships the world over, memorial to women whose lives have been taken or ruined by men, as well as a blistering indictment of male control and violence. And despite its dark premise, Before You Knew My Name is also filled with love and joy. This is a novel that readers will hold to their hearts and share passionately with their friends. I can’t wait to share it with mine.’
JANE PALFREYMAN, PUBLISHER

 

 

‘The most wonderful book. Unusual, beautiful, feminist, gripping, deserves to win prizes. I loved it so much.’
MARIAN KEYES

Before You Knew My Name is so many things at once: a classic murder mystery and a genre-defying trailblazer, a lament for the dead and a celebration of life, a book to linger over and a fast-moving page-turner. Beautiful, brilliant and strangely joyous, Jacqueline Bublitz’s debut will have you in its thrall from its powerful first page to its superb conclusion.’
ROSE CARLYLE, author of Girl in the Mirror

‘I loved this addictive and utterly captivating debut, part Whodunnit, part Who was she? It asked all sorts of compelling questions about how society views and judges women, even after death. There is darkness but also a beautiful light that shines through this very special novel. I couldn’t put it down.’
SARAH BAILEY, author of Where the Dead Go

‘This astonishing debut turns the traditional crime story on its head. With a startling voice that compels us to listen, the indomitable victim Alice insists that we remember her life, not her death. Darkly funny, deeply insightful and completely heartbreaking, this novel shows us two very different women, uniquely connected by death, and both searching for hope.’
PETRONELLA MCGOVERN, author of Six Minutes

‘A wake-up call, beautifully written and unique feminist exploration of the crime story genre, giving voice and life to those characters who are rarely given that agency, whose names rarely go beyond “dead girl” and “woman who found the body”. Meet Alice Lee and Ruby Jones.’
R.W.R. MCDONALD, author of The Nancys

‘I fell head over heels in love with this heartbreaking, beautiful and hugely important novel. Jacqueline Bublitz’s prose is luminous and the up-all-night, just-one-more-page plot is brilliantly clever and original. Everyone should read this book.’
ROSIE WALSH, author of The Man Who Didn’t Call

‘A really remarkable book—so fresh and original. I’ve never read anything quite like this.’
LAURA BARNETT, author of The Versions of Us

‘Exquisitely composed, with a muscular feminist sensibility, Before You Knew My Name is both elegiac and rhapsodic in its examination of the deaths—and lives—of women.’
JESSICA MOOR, author of Keeper

‘I absolutely relished this clever, original and moving novel. Jacqueline Bublitz is a fantastically adept writer, creating a wonderful cast of characters and a hugely engaging portrait of city life.’
NELL FRIZZELL, author of The Panic Years

 

 

‘Jacqueline Bublitz has produced a story so beautiful and powerful, and writing so beautiful and powerful, that dozens of times whilst reading this book I wanted to shout out loud just how wonderful it is. It’s extraordinary, moving and important. Before You Knew My Name is a triumph.’
ROBERT GORMAN, CEO, ALLEN & UNWIN

Before You Knew My Name is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page. It’s a book that makes you not only think deeply, but feel deeply, and look at the world in a different way. For every reader struggling with tired crime tropes and passive, silent victims, I would urge you to pick up this book: you will be enthralled by this fresh new voice and the vivid, unpredictable story.’
PERI WILSON, PUBLICITY DIRECTOR

‘Rarely does a novel come along that is so immediately and completely beguiling, with characters that you feel connected to from the very first pages. Dark and serious issues are dealt with in an ultimately life-affirming way. I absolutely loved this book.’
MATT HOY, GROUP SALES DIRECTOR

‘A clever and sublime novel whose grim undertones are swept aside by big hearts and bucket loads of charm. I LOVED THIS! And I know that there are thousands of New Zealand readers waiting to love it too.’
MELANIE LAVILLE-MOORE, NZ DIRECTOR

‘An original and memorable novel, Before You Knew My Name is the story of two women and the enduring connection between them. Told with incredible empathy and insight, this extraordinary novel is clever, gripping and ultimately hopeful.’
CHRISTA MUNNS, SENIOR EDITOR

 

 

There is no name to be spoken, but I am recognised by each of the women present, clasped around their lifted hands, heavy on their hearts. I am their fears, and their lucky escapes, their anger, and their wariness. I am their caution and their yesterdays, the shadow version of themselves all those nights they have spent looking over shoulders, or twining keys between fingers … So that when the man’s passion is spent, it is the quiet rage of women that lingers, can be seen, glittering, from above. Long after all the little fires have been extinguished, and the mourners have moved on.

Dead girls don’t usually get to tell their story, but Alice Lee has always been a different type of girl. When she arrives in New York on her eighteenth birthday, carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen Leica in her bag, Alice is a plucky teenager looking to start a new life away from her dark past. Now she’s ‘Jane Doe’, ‘Riverside Jane’, an unidentified body on a slab at City Morgue.

Newspaper headlines briefly report that ‘the body was discovered by a jogger’. Ruby Jones is a lonely Australian woman trying to put distance between herself and a destructive relationship back home, and is struggling in the aftermath of being the person to find Alice’s body. When she encounters Death Club, a small group of misfits who meet at bars around the city to discuss death and dying, she finds a safe space to explore her increasing obsession with the girl and her unidentified killer.

Alice, seemingly stuck between life and death, narrates Ruby’s story, hoping that this woman will help her come to terms with what happened and assist in identifying her body. From this first devastating encounter, an enduring connection between the two women is formed. One that will eventually lead to the man who murdered Alice …

 

 

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.

 

 

I wrote Before You Knew My Name because I wanted to explore the tension between autonomy and safety that women are required to navigate on a near-daily basis. ‘Do you know how aware we have to be?’ Alice Lee asks at one point in the novel. At just eighteen years old—the age I was when I moved to Melbourne on my own—Alice has already learnt to adjust her behaviour in both small and significant ways to protect herself. And she knows her safety is far from guaranteed.

The plot itself has its genesis in the 2014 murder of Renea Lau. Her body was found in the Botanic Gardens, and while this tragic case might not have received as much media attention as similar crimes that shook Melbourne, for me it was so very close to home. Not just because I often walked that area late at night, but because I ran the Tan most mornings, too. A jogger found her body; suddenly ‘it could have been me’ took on two very different meanings, and two very different characters began to take shape: a vibrant young girl gone too soon, and the lost, lonely woman who discovers her body.

I carried these characters, and the notion of their profound connection, all the way to New York, a city that exists as an idea as much as a reality. It’s where you go to make it, after all. But New York can also serve up loneliness, indifference, anonymity. In short, it feels like a place where you could just as easily disappear. Living in Manhattan for five months, many of my own experiences found their way onto the page: The city as a mixture of serendipity and disappointment. Connection and isolation. Familiarity and foreignness. This city of contrasts became the perfect place for Alice Lee, the optimistic young American, and Ruby Jones, the disillusioned Australian, to find each other—in their most unusual way.

For me, Alice remains the beating heart of Before You Knew My Name, and to say she was an easy character to write is somehow an understatement and an over-simplification. She came to me with such a strong, insistent voice, yet she is also representative of a type of real-world tragedy all too easy to exploit. So many novels use a woman’s body as the territory across which other people’s stories are written. Detectives, reporters, medical examiners, perpetrators—as we follow Ruby on her quest to find out who killed Alice, you will find these players in Before You Knew My Name, too. But I was determined to place this murdered woman firmly at the centre of the narrative, ensuring the most important moments come from the remarkable Alice herself, as she shows readers who she was, and all that she leaves behind.

Significantly, Before You Knew My Name was edited in the months after my dad died. Though much of the novel is concerned with loss and grief, threaded through the veins of the story is my belief that the dead, to borrow from Fox Mulder, are never truly lost to us. Poignancy, I have learned, is grief’s better half, and my intention has always been that this novel comforts as much as it provokes. If Alice Lee is my tribute to the murdered women and girls whose names we all know, and to the many, many more unnamed victims of gendered violence, she is also an embodiment of my hope that love, connection, and kindness last well beyond our so-called ending.

Thank you so very much for reading!

Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz

 

 

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