Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Publisher: Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult, Book Club, Feminism, New York

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth 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. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?


First Line:

You will already have an idea of me. There are enough of us dead girls out there.

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

I am a huge true crime junkie. I listen to various podcasts, watch ID Discover, and read fictional mysteries/suspense/thrillers. So, when I got the Before You Knew My Name invite, I accepted it. No hesitation, I downloaded this book to my Kindle in record time. I am glad I did because I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Before You Knew My Name was an exciting book. This was the story of Alice, an eighteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin who had traveled to New York City. Alice was murdered and left for dead on a rocky pier. She is determined to help the woman who discovered her, Ruby, find her murderer and get justice. But this is also the story of Ruby. Ruby, from Australia, had been stuck in a rut for a while when she decided she needed a new start. And for her, it means traveling to New York City. But Ruby is the one who discovers Alice’s body, and Ruby is the one who pushes the police for answers. Will Ruby find herself in New York City? Will Alice get her justice?

There are trigger warnings in this book. The trigger warning is underage sexual contact/situations, cheating, mentions of sexual abuse, suicide, child abuse, and drinking. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Before You Knew My Name was a medium-fast-paced book set in New York City. It starts fast, slows down in the middle of the book, and then picks up towards the end. The pacing was perfect for this book. Any faster, and I would have had an issue keeping up. Any slower, and the book would have dragged.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Alice and Ruby when they were both introduced. Alice seemed like an unreliable narrator. At the beginning of her story, she glossed over a lot. Ruby was a hot mess, and you know what? I related to her.

  • Alice— As I mentioned above, I wasn’t too sure about Alice at the beginning of her storyline. She was very unreliable and kept glossing over her earlier years. But, as the book went on and she opened up about her life pre-New York City, I started to like her. I did think she was too trusting (mainly with Noah, but he ended up being a teddy bear). When the killer killed her, it did hit me hard. I was a freaking mess. Then I got mad and hoped the police would catch the killer soon.
  • Ruby—I liked her right from the beginning. She was a hot mess but relatable (as I described above). I wasn’t that shocked that she up and left Melbourne. She needed a new start. But her fresh start didn’t exactly go as planned when she found Alice. I loved how her character grew after finding Alice. She became almost obsessed with finding the killer, and she did have a great support system (a found family) in New York. My only quibble with her was Ash. He was like a drug to her, and she needed to let him go.

There were many memorable secondary characters in Before You Knew My Name. They each brought added depth to the plotline. There were some that I wished had more book time (Noah and Tina were two), and others (like Alice’s teacher/lover) needed less book time.

Before You Knew My Name was a combination of mystery and thriller. It fits perfectly into those genres. I think there could have been a tad more thriller, but that’s just me.

Alice’s storyline was poignant. But it also made me unbelievably mad during some parts. Alice had some awful things happen to her, but she dealt with them with a grace that I know I wouldn’t have had. But, once she arrived in New York with that camera and found Noah, she turned into a different girl. She began to see a future. And that is what made me so unbelievably angry when she was murdered. The killer snuffed out her light too soon.

Ruby’s storyline was just as poignant but in a different way. She needed a change. She was stagnating in her life in Australia. So, her going to New York City and starting over was good. And, in a way, finding Alice’s body was a good thing too. Because if she didn’t, she would have never gone to the support group. She would have never met Lennie, and she would have never joined The Death Club. She also would have never met Josh, Susan, or even Noah.

The storyline with Alice’s killer was interesting. The author kept his identity and motive under wraps until almost the end of the book. Ruby had a hand leading the detectives to him when she remembered something crucial about the night she found Alice.

The end of Before You Knew My Name was poignant. The author was able to merge all the storylines, and she ended them in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. From beginning to end, this book will make you think about all the John and Jane Does out there.

Three Reasons You Should Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. It was a true mystery. The author kept Alice’s killer under wraps until the end.
  2. The book had a great pace to it. It made reading and keeping track of the different storylines very easy.
  3. The characters were very relatable.

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. The trigger warnings.
  2. Alice being murdered. I was so angry about that (even though I knew it would happen).
  3. Ruby being a hot mess.

I would recommend Before You Knew My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual content, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Before You Knew My Name, you will enjoy reading these books:

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

Publisher: Atria Books, Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: February 1st 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Magical Realism

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.


First Line:

It begins with an advertisement, nailed to an oak tree.

Circus of wonders by elizabeth macneal

It is not every day that a book about English circuses in the late 1860s comes across my email. When I read the blurb for Circus of Wonders, it immediately caught my attention. I am glad that I read this book, even if it made me uncomfortable in places.

Circus of Wonders had an exciting storyline. Nell is a nineteen-year-old girl living in a village on the coast of England. Nell is an outcast because she is covered in brown birthmarks, including a big one that covers the side of her face. Because of that, she keeps to her cottage. Her everyday life is mundane, packing flowers dipped in sugar and shipping them to London. But then the circus comes to town, and Nell’s life is turned upside down. Sold by her father to Jasper Jupiters Circus of Wonders, Nell finds love and fame. But, Jasper (the circus owner) is jealous that her fame goes beyond his and vows to take her down. Will Nell be able to hold onto her values and her love? Or will she be left in worse straits than when she joined the circus?

Circus of Wonders had a medium-paced storyline that did pick up steam in places. The pacing of the book did it justice. It was a nice, steady pace from beginning to end. It took me around two days to finish Circus of Wonders.

Nell was powerful in this book. She went from this meek, timid girl afraid to show her face to a powerful woman who wasn’t scared to fight for what she wanted. Her character’s growth throughout the book was terrific.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Toby. I didn’t see what Nell saw in him except that he was safe because he was so big? He was also abnormally close to Jasper, his brother. It creeped me out how close they were. I did like that his character did show some growth during the book. By the end, he was becoming his own person. I wish he had made the right choice (if you read the book, you know what I mean). He would have been so much happier.

I was not too fond of Jasper. He was overconfident, took too many risks, and was cruel. You don’t see how evil he was until his chapters when he was in the Crimean War. After those chapters, his cruelness was more apparent. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked how he treated Toby. From the beginning, he used Toby’s secret to keep him around and constantly reminded him about it. He disgusted me with how he treated his “attractions” (the animals and humans).

I did like the look into how circus life was in the 1860s. I liked the peek behind the big top that the author gave me. I wasn’t surprised at what she described when talking about the human attractions. They were treated as subhuman, like monsters (as Queen Victoria and her Ladies in Waiting described Nell). I like that they showed how everyone became a family unit and protected their own. Even when Brunette ran, they didn’t tell Jasper until he discovered she was gone.

The romance between Nell and Toby seemed a little forced to me. It didn’t do anything for me. I also wasn’t surprised by how it ended. I called it when they first met (not even when they had sex when they first met). Toby was too damaged, and Nell, well, she was a force to be reckoned with.

The end of Circus of Wonders was “blah” to me. I wish that the storyline with Jasper went the way I thought it would. I also wish that Toby had made a different choice when it came to Nell. I liked that the author went 11 years into the future to show where everyone ended up. It was interesting how the tables had flipped. And I loved that dreams were realized!!

I would recommend Circus of Wonders to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, nongraphic sex scenes, and no language.