The GIRL BEFORE – Rena Olsen

This a novel of extraordinary originality, where reality is warped to a new dimension wrapped in a cloak of plausible psychology.


Consider: You are married to a strong man you love, have a home filled with children you care for and lovingly guide to their full potential, when armed men raid. You are torn from this home and confined, accused of crimes beyond your understanding. The world of order and stability that you knew is ripped apart. “Say nothing!” are the last words you hear from you husband as the strangers haul him away. There is nothing to say that is not the truth as you know it, but you say nothing. Nothing for days, as they work on you both with anger and kindness…

The action flip-flops between the present and the past; at first totally confusing for the reader; so much so that I was tempted to give up. Don’t do it. Bear with it, and the murk will slowly clear, as it does for the fearful and confused Clara Lawson who may have once been… Diana.

Clara grows up with her sisters under the stern parentage of Mama and Papa G. The boundaries are tight and the punishment severe for those who stray, but Clara is not unhappy if she stays within the confines. Moreover, she and the natural son of her adoptive parents fall in love, and against many odds, they marry.

So, how can that make her the monster her captors accuse her of being?


Rena Olsen

Her world tilts and skews, cracks and ultimately shatters until the only question is whether Clara will survive among the pieces…

This is a novel of great power and remarkable empathy. The characters are all too real, covering the spectrum of humanity’s complexity. I can unreservedly recommend it, and look forward to investigating Rena Olsen’s future crime scenes.



Received with thanks via Netgalley from Carolyn Darr [] of Penguin Random House, USA.


About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 6 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; and 'Tribes of Hillbrow'; all from Southern Africa.
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