Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the latest instalment in the Ruby Baker novels, Before I Found You. Picking up a few months after Before I Left leaves off Ruby, Mary, and Johnnie are back it again hitting the parties and using the salon to solve mysteries. Perfectly balanced between the 60s party scene and a twisty mystery, this is the perfect read for someone who likes their crime a little on the lighter side.
Title: Before I Found You
Author: Daisy White
Publisher: Joffe Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2018
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Period Fiction, Murder Mystery, Thriller
Themes: Family, friendship, child abuse, murder, postpartum depression
Features: Glossary of terms
My Rating: 4/ 5
Do you love gripping mysteries? Then discover Ruby Baker, a young woman with a talent for uncovering the truth.
A child found alone on the beach, shouting into the waves.
A mother who served ten years for a crime she says she didn’t commit.
Ruby Baker is back with another seaside mystery. When she and her friends rescue a child from the beach in a storm, police are baffled. Nobody has reported a child missing, and the girl seems so traumatised that she is unable to speak.
In Johnny’s hairdressing salon, the notorious Beverly Collins makes an appointment with Ruby, but it soon becomes clear the woman wants more than a haircut.
Beverly has just been released from Holloway Prison after serving ten years for child cruelty. The body of her missing daughter was never found, but Beverly insists she is innocent,and she wants Ruby Baker’s Investigation Bureau to prove it.
This isn’t going to be an easy investigation. Opinion is divided on Beverly’s innocence. Reporters Kenny and James are keen to uncover a big story, while Ruby’s best friend, Mary, is distracted and struggling to deal with motherhood.
As Ruby tries to unravel the past, she discovers that Beverly Collins’ release seems to have triggered a bizarre chain of events.
Was she really framed, and if so, where is her daughter Ella now? And who is the mystery girl on the beach?
I’m always nervous diving into sequels, especially when I loved the first book in a series. But, Daisy White doesn’t disappoint with the second instalment in the Ruby Baker mysteries. Right from the opening scenes I was drawn back into 1960s Brighton with the party scene, the fashion, and of course, the whole series of events surrounding Beverly Collins and her daughter. Just like the first novel, we are thrown right into the thick of things with the action kicking off in the first chapter and only getting more intense from there
I will say though, while this novel can certainly stand on it’s own, it is one that is best read in sequence as it frequently refers to events and people in the debut novel. Without reading the first book, the references to Ruby’s murders and Will’s involvement take a little time to become clear. But with that out of the way, the dynamic between the characters is engaging, realistic, and wonderful in it’s imperfection. I loved how Ruby is afraid of Will, how Johnnie has to deal with the realities of his ex, and how perfectly the mood of a tight-knit and highly judgemental community is portrayed.
Once again White takes on some heavy hitting issues including the illegality of homosexuality in the 60s and the risks that these individuals endured on a daily basis, the harsh reality of postpartum depression and how it effects everyone involved, the censure and judgement that accompanies being an unwed mother, as well as police corruption and human trafficking. However, these elements are balanced out with a touch of romance, gossip at the Salon, and some cracking fashion. There is just enough grit to turn your tummy, but not so much that you’re hesitant to turn the pages – which was a huge plus as I read this sucker late at night and would have had issues sleeping otherwise!
It was neat to see the threat against Mary and Ruby transfer from being external, to an internal one where the forces threatening to tear the girls apart were the darkest depths of their own selves. I definitely felt that more time was spent developing the girls back stories, and as a result I found myself starting to connect with them much more easily. I do hope, however, that we’ll get some more tidbits about Johnnie’s adventures in London and some morsels about Will as these were two areas that were kind of left off like loose ends. Fortunately though, this is shaping up to be an exciting series and I’m sure that more details will be revealed with each instalment.
And finally, I have to say that I adore the almost frenzied feeling of the plot. With so many instances and events taking place, and over such a great period of time, it was exciting to see them all come together in one final crescendo. Ella’s moment of triumph was entirely unexpected, as was the cliff hanger ending (pun intended!).
Would I recommend this book? Hells yes! Quick and gritty the Ruby Baker novels are shaping up to be some of my favourite period mysteries. The fashion sparks the imagination, the situation are real enough to be revolting, and they’re set not so far in the past as to be distant. I love the spunk and determination of the girls, and look forward to seeing what case the Ruby Baker Investigation Agency takes on next.
Many thanks to Daisy White and Joffe Books for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.