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Before the Ruins

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A gripping, multilayered debut in the tradition of Tana French and Donna Tartt about four friends, an empty manor, and a night that will follow them for the rest of their lives It's the summer of 1996 and school's out forever for Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em. When Andy's alcoholic mother predicts the apocalypse, the four teenagers decide to see A gripping, multilayered debut in the tradition of Tana French and Donna Tartt about four friends, an empty manor, and a night that will follow them for the rest of their lives It's the summer of 1996 and school's out forever for Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em. When Andy's alcoholic mother predicts the apocalypse, the four teenagers decide to see out the end of the world at a deserted manor house, the site of a historic unsolved mystery. There they meet David—charming and unreliable, he seems to have appeared out of nowhere. David presents an irresistible lure for both Andy and Peter and complicates the dynamics of their lifelong friendship. When the group learns that a diamond necklace, stolen fifty years ago, might still be somewhere on the manor grounds, the Game—half treasure hunt, half friendly deception—begins. But the Game becomes much bigger than the necklace, growing to encompass years of secrets, lies, and, ultimately, one terrible betrayal. Meticulously plotted and gorgeously written, Before the Ruins is a page-turner of the highest order about the sealed-off places in our pasts and the parts of ourselves waiting to be retrieved from them.


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A gripping, multilayered debut in the tradition of Tana French and Donna Tartt about four friends, an empty manor, and a night that will follow them for the rest of their lives It's the summer of 1996 and school's out forever for Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em. When Andy's alcoholic mother predicts the apocalypse, the four teenagers decide to see A gripping, multilayered debut in the tradition of Tana French and Donna Tartt about four friends, an empty manor, and a night that will follow them for the rest of their lives It's the summer of 1996 and school's out forever for Andy, her boyfriend Marcus, her best friend Peter, and Em. When Andy's alcoholic mother predicts the apocalypse, the four teenagers decide to see out the end of the world at a deserted manor house, the site of a historic unsolved mystery. There they meet David—charming and unreliable, he seems to have appeared out of nowhere. David presents an irresistible lure for both Andy and Peter and complicates the dynamics of their lifelong friendship. When the group learns that a diamond necklace, stolen fifty years ago, might still be somewhere on the manor grounds, the Game—half treasure hunt, half friendly deception—begins. But the Game becomes much bigger than the necklace, growing to encompass years of secrets, lies, and, ultimately, one terrible betrayal. Meticulously plotted and gorgeously written, Before the Ruins is a page-turner of the highest order about the sealed-off places in our pasts and the parts of ourselves waiting to be retrieved from them.

30 review for Before the Ruins

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill

    3.5 stars... Four friends, an abandoned manor, a 50 year old mystery...what could go wrong? As these four friends chose to escape the world and hang out in this old manor, they would engage in a game of looking for a missing diamond necklace that is rumored to be on the grounds. However, someone might want to ensure that the diamonds are never found. Will they all make it out alive? This debut was a slow burn that unraveled itself little by little. The writing is beautiful, detailed and had an alm 3.5 stars... Four friends, an abandoned manor, a 50 year old mystery...what could go wrong? As these four friends chose to escape the world and hang out in this old manor, they would engage in a game of looking for a missing diamond necklace that is rumored to be on the grounds. However, someone might want to ensure that the diamonds are never found. Will they all make it out alive? This debut was a slow burn that unraveled itself little by little. The writing is beautiful, detailed and had an almost gothic feel to it. As the past and the present came crashing together..Andy is trying to figure out what happened all those years ago.. Overall a story that captured my attention...and I enjoyed it but I wanted a bit more... Thank you so much to Henry Holt for my gifted copy!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    (4.5) This was the second book within a couple of weeks that I completely underestimated. As with Catherine House, I read the blurb, recognised attractive keywords – ‘ruined manor house’, ‘resentment, lies and a terrible betrayal’ – and settled in for what I assumed would be an enjoyable retread of some favourite themes, something fun and light to while away a sunny afternoon. But Before the Ruins is more than the sum of its parts. It starts in the present day. A woman named Andy receives a phone (4.5) This was the second book within a couple of weeks that I completely underestimated. As with Catherine House, I read the blurb, recognised attractive keywords – ‘ruined manor house’, ‘resentment, lies and a terrible betrayal’ – and settled in for what I assumed would be an enjoyable retread of some favourite themes, something fun and light to while away a sunny afternoon. But Before the Ruins is more than the sum of its parts. It starts in the present day. A woman named Andy receives a phone call from her friend Peter’s mother; Peter, it seems, is missing – or at least, he’s not contacting his parents. This sets Andy off on a search for him. More importantly, it prompts her to think back to the events of 20 years ago, a key period in both their lives. In these flashbacks, Andy and Peter are 18 years old and unlikely best friends: Andy the daughter of a neglectful alcoholic, her life so far defined by abuse; Peter comfortably middle class, the son of a vicar, bound for Oxford. That summer they, along with their friend Em and Andy’s boyfriend Marcus, spend a lot of time hanging around an abandoned manor house. They meet charismatic runaway David, with whom both Andy and Peter fall a little bit in love. Perhaps incongruously for older teens, the whole group get caught up in a half-serious game: searching for a priceless diamond necklace, the subject of a local scandal in the 1930s, and reputedly still hidden somewhere in the house’s grounds. Lots of books play with themes like these: the outsider in a golden group, the deadly desperation to belong, the disastrous event that rends it all asunder. The Poison Tree, A Fatal Inversion and Bitter Orange all came to mind while I was reading it. Plus there are plenty of fun-but-forgettable takes, like The Truants. What, then, makes Before the Ruins in particular worth reading? It’s the characters, Andy especially, and the richness – the scope – of the story. Andy feels like a fully realised person and seems to have about a hundred different layers to her. The plot takes many unexpected turns, by which I don’t mean ‘twists’ but diversions which add context and enhance the story. As with A Fatal Inversion, there’s a lot of detail that doesn’t technically need to be included but which ultimately makes the book far more engrossing and rewarding than it might otherwise have been. And then there’s the love story. I am not a lover of love stories (so to speak); generally speaking, I actively avoid anything labelled as romance, and often roll my eyes when romantic subplots are jammed into books or films where they aren’t necessary. But the love story in Before the Ruins... it’s just wonderfully done. I fully believed in the bond between these characters, and to my own surprise, I found myself hoping fiercely that they would get a happy ending. As I write, the release date of Before the Ruins is uncertain. Originally slated for July 2020, it’s disappeared from the (UK) publisher’s website, and Amazon lists it as being due out in May 2021. I’m writing about it now because I don’t want to forget how much I enjoyed it – or what I enjoyed about it. The things that first drew me to it proved unimportant in the end; it’s superficially a story about a manor house, a betrayal, a game, etc., but truly it’s about something much more fundamental than that: the complex bonds of friendship and love, and the long-lasting reverberations of our early lives. I received an advance review copy of Before the Ruins from the publisher through NetGalley. TinyLetter

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This is a different sort of mystery from the thrillers currently flooding the market, which is part of what makes it such a refreshing read. Rather than being fast paced, plainly written, and full of twists, the writing is slow and beautiful and full of atmosphere. This book reminds me somewhat of The Secret History - though the plot is not the same, the writing is equally beautiful and it focuses primarily on a tragic event that happened between a group of friends when they were young. The book This is a different sort of mystery from the thrillers currently flooding the market, which is part of what makes it such a refreshing read. Rather than being fast paced, plainly written, and full of twists, the writing is slow and beautiful and full of atmosphere. This book reminds me somewhat of The Secret History - though the plot is not the same, the writing is equally beautiful and it focuses primarily on a tragic event that happened between a group of friends when they were young. The book has a lot of really intriguing elements: a missing treasure, a murder, a love...rectangle? But mostly I just found myself lost in the lovely writing. The book is totally original and has a great final twist and conclusion. If you’re looking for a fast and easy suspense read, this isn’t the book for that mood. But if you’re looking for a break with something lovely you can really savor, this book is for you. Thanks so much to Victoria Gosling, NetGalley, and Henry Holt for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 3 ¼ stars “To sleep on? Or to wake? This was the question facing me. To sleep, or to wake and face the reckoning, to find out what had been lost.” Although by no means an incompetent debut Before the Ruins does not offer a particularly innovative take on this subgenre (usually we have big houses, a group of friends, something bad happens, years later something happens that makes our protagonist look back to this period of their life). The blurb for Before t / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 3 ¼ stars “To sleep on? Or to wake? This was the question facing me. To sleep, or to wake and face the reckoning, to find out what had been lost.” Although by no means an incompetent debut Before the Ruins does not offer a particularly innovative take on this subgenre (usually we have big houses, a group of friends, something bad happens, years later something happens that makes our protagonist look back to this period of their life). The blurb for Before the Ruins does no favors to the actual contents of the novel. The diamond necklace functions as a MacGuffin, the 'Game' happens largely off the page, Andy's "destructive behavior" does not seem all that destructive, and David is by no means 'magnetic'. Maybe if I had not read any novels by Barbara Vine I would have been able to enjoy this more but while I was reading it I found myself more than once wishing I was reading Vine instead. Before the Ruins is narrated by Andy who is her late thirties and works/lives in London. When the mother of her childhood best friend Peter calls her asking about his whereabouts Andy finds herself thinking back to that 'fateful' time in her life, when she was eighteen or so and alongisde Peter, and Marcus, Andy's boyfriend, sneaked into 'the manor'. Here they play 'the game', looking for a diamond necklace reputed to have been lost decades before. The arrival of David changes their group dynamics as both Andy and Peter fall for him. I thought that this would be the focus of the novel but in reality it is not. There two or three scenes depicting this 'mythical summer' and soon the focus of the story switches to the present day. We still get a few chapters relating past events, but these are fairly summative in nature. Which brings me to my biggest criticism towards Before the Ruins : too much telling, not enough showing. Andy gives us recaps of these supposedly pivotal moments of her life. We do not see enough interactions between the members of the group, I wanted more of Peter and David, or at least more of Em and Andy. But what we get is a lot of pages emphasising that Andy was the 'wild one' from a difficult home, while everyone else seemed to have wonderful home environments. While Andy concedes that being gay in a small village in the 1990s was not easy for Peter the narrative will often stress Andy's struggles. Em was portrayed as almost opposite to Andy's tough-girl personality: she is 'elfin', an artist, more feminine, less in your face. Marcus was also painfully one-dimensional, as the not-so-nice-nice-guy. Peter...I really wanted to read more about it. But when Andy revisits the past she often skims over their time together, making their relationship seem not all that complex. He reminded me of other characters from this group of friends/something bad happens' genre so I found myself almost superimposing my memory of those characters over him. The setting of Marlborough was familiar to me, so I could easily envision the places that Andy was discussing but for readers who have never been to Marlborough or other villages in Wiltshire, well, they may find that the setting is at times a bit generic 'countryside'. There are too few descriptions of Andy and her surroundings, especially once we get to the present. And, I would have loved to have more detailed descriptions of the manor (we get some at the start but I would have liked some more...I don't expect Vine levels of architectural details but...). Still, I did eventually warm up to the characters and story in the latter half of the novel. There are some beautiful and insightful observations about accountability, trauma, love, and grief. While the revelations towards the end did not come as surprise that is largely due to the fact that I have come across a lot of books that tread similar grounds (most of Vine's novel, The Truants, The Secret History, The Lessons, If We Were Villains, The Likeness, The Sisters Mortland, Tell Me Everything....). It frustrated me that Gosling either kept the most interesting encounters or exchanges off-page or simply rushed them. Expanding that 'mythical summer' would have given the overall story more tension (we could have seen with more clarity how David's presence disrupted the group's established dynamics). The story about the missing diamonds is delivered in a somewhat clumsy way, and I wish that the whole 'game' had been depicted in a different way. The novel is still engaging and suspenseful but I was often aware of where the story would go next. Nevertheless, for all my criticism, I recognize that Gosling can write well, and even if Andy was not my kind of protagonist, I appreciated her character arc. Gosling is talented, of this there is no doubt, but I do wish that she had written a more original story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    I received a free advance review copy from Macmillan, via Netgalley. You’ve read the description, so you know the basic plot here. While there is some implication that this is about an old manor house mystery, it isn’t. Twenty years after the summer of the friends at the manor house, Andy (Andrea) tries to find out what has happened to one of the old friends, Peter, who seems to have dropped off the map. But it’s not really about Andy’s search, either. This is more of a character-driven study tha I received a free advance review copy from Macmillan, via Netgalley. You’ve read the description, so you know the basic plot here. While there is some implication that this is about an old manor house mystery, it isn’t. Twenty years after the summer of the friends at the manor house, Andy (Andrea) tries to find out what has happened to one of the old friends, Peter, who seems to have dropped off the map. But it’s not really about Andy’s search, either. This is more of a character-driven study than a plot-driven story. Andy’s quest is an opportunity for her to reflect on that summer and “the game” of searching for the necklace, but more so about her to think about their relationships and where she finds herself now. In its best places, the book has a dreamlike quality. But often it seems nothing more than a lot of self-indulgent navel-gazing. The writing can be murky and confusing. I know I’m in the minority here, and that many find the book beautiful and meaningful, but to me the existential musings are banal. Maybe it’s a function of age. At my senior stage of life, Andy’s melancholy seems unearned and trivial.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    This was one of the most boring and pointless books I've ever drudged through. I can't believe I read the whole thing hoping at some point it would start being good. The good reviews on the book's back cover can't possibly be referring to the book inside--unlikable characters, overly written and wordy and just plain boring. This was one of the most boring and pointless books I've ever drudged through. I can't believe I read the whole thing hoping at some point it would start being good. The good reviews on the book's back cover can't possibly be referring to the book inside--unlikable characters, overly written and wordy and just plain boring.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ruthy lavin

    Took me a while to read this one.... the concept was great and the story telling was almost poetic at times.... but it was also thready and confusing. Given the events of late, i haven’t had as much time to read as I’d like, so I was putting this down and picking it back up whenever I could... and it was difficult to pick up where I’d left off without having to really concentrate and jog my memory - never a good sign. I just didn’t gel with it properly although some of it was very relatable so I’ Took me a while to read this one.... the concept was great and the story telling was almost poetic at times.... but it was also thready and confusing. Given the events of late, i haven’t had as much time to read as I’d like, so I was putting this down and picking it back up whenever I could... and it was difficult to pick up where I’d left off without having to really concentrate and jog my memory - never a good sign. I just didn’t gel with it properly although some of it was very relatable so I’m not sure why. Not easy to rate this one but I guess it’s about a 2.5 stars 🌟

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I love a gothic mystery, but I found this to be somewhat overwritten and tough to get into. Maybe it's quarantine brain, maybe it's the writing; I just kept finding myself lost in the narrative and literary flourishes and unable to connect with the characters. I love a gothic mystery, but I found this to be somewhat overwritten and tough to get into. Maybe it's quarantine brain, maybe it's the writing; I just kept finding myself lost in the narrative and literary flourishes and unable to connect with the characters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    Definitely a slow burn gothic type mystery. Not a great deal of suspense but there are some intriguing character connections and Gosling's way of turning a phrase is beautiful. There are some lines that definitely resonated with me and made me think. This is a tale about a group of friends: Andrea "Andy", Marcus, Peter, and Em, who hang out at a deserted manor house pondering life and the upcoming changes as they head off into the world. There they meet another young man, David, who is hiding out Definitely a slow burn gothic type mystery. Not a great deal of suspense but there are some intriguing character connections and Gosling's way of turning a phrase is beautiful. There are some lines that definitely resonated with me and made me think. This is a tale about a group of friends: Andrea "Andy", Marcus, Peter, and Em, who hang out at a deserted manor house pondering life and the upcoming changes as they head off into the world. There they meet another young man, David, who is hiding out from some trouble and they befriend him. Fast forward many years, and Andrea gets a call from Peter's mother asking if she's heard from him. Neither can get in touch, and Andy takes it upon herself to investigate what has happened to Peter and if it has any ties to what happened so many years ago. There's not a large amount of mystery, and there are a few too many plot points. The book is a bit scattered and Andy, who is the narrator, is not a very likable person. The book is a slow burn, but overall isn't bad if you want to take the time. The writing is great and I look forward to seeing what the author comes up with next. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Before the Ruins had a good premise and a good general feel to it (very Donna Tartt), but after a lot of meandering, the story ultimately failed in its inability to reckon with its own plot. This is a VERY slow build and has almost no major plot action until the halfway point. It lacks the eerieness and sense of menace for it to succeed as a true Gothic or Neo-Gothic novel, so the slow build ultimately mostly feels tedious. Still, I didn’t hate that component. Gosling did well by her characters, Before the Ruins had a good premise and a good general feel to it (very Donna Tartt), but after a lot of meandering, the story ultimately failed in its inability to reckon with its own plot. This is a VERY slow build and has almost no major plot action until the halfway point. It lacks the eerieness and sense of menace for it to succeed as a true Gothic or Neo-Gothic novel, so the slow build ultimately mostly feels tedious. Still, I didn’t hate that component. Gosling did well by her characters, making them nuanced and tangible if not exactly likable. So it’s unfortunate that the story they’re given doesn’t do them justice in the end. The entire book builds on the premise that the mystery happening in the now must be connected to past events, but when we finally find out what ominously missing Peter has been up to, it’s a disappointment because it’s entirely unrelated. In other words: We spent an entire book soaking up this complex, winding backstory for nothing. Did those past events shape Peter, sending him down the path he ultimately lands on? Probably. But the lack of any narrative connection between the two makes the whole lot feel like an exercise in futility for the reader. It’s a pretty bleak, depressing story, and while I’m glad Andy found her version of a happy ending, the lack of payoff for all that harsh bleakness just doesn’t feel worth it. *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sharon C

    I went into Before the Ruins based on the description and the comparison to Tana French and Paula Hawkins, and it just didn't live up to those comparisons. This is not a thriller, nor is it particularly suspenseful. Because that was what I was expecting, I was disappointed. I kept thinking it was like someone telling you an anecdote where you want to scream "get to the point!!!" That said, it is beautifully written and works well as general fiction. The start is promising. Protagonist Andy gets I went into Before the Ruins based on the description and the comparison to Tana French and Paula Hawkins, and it just didn't live up to those comparisons. This is not a thriller, nor is it particularly suspenseful. Because that was what I was expecting, I was disappointed. I kept thinking it was like someone telling you an anecdote where you want to scream "get to the point!!!" That said, it is beautifully written and works well as general fiction. The start is promising. Protagonist Andy gets a call from the mother of one of her oldest friends, Peter. They were once inseparable as teens, along with Em and Andy's boyfriend, Marcus. One summer they broke into an old manor and met the charismatic David, who was living there illegally. The old manor house had a history as a place where a diamond necklace was stolen from a guest, was never recovered, and is believed to still be on the grounds. The five friends develop a game based around the necklace where one of them hides it and the others search the grounds to try and find it. However, that was all years ago, and Andy sees Peter very rarely now that they are adults and leading busy lives. Still, she is intrigued by the call from Peter's mother and sets out to find Peter, thus revisiting her past. The writing is atmospheric, particularly the passages that take place when they were all teens hanging out at the manor. However, none of the characters ever came to life for me, and I thought the ending (about Peter's whereabouts) was out of left field. As a debut novel, it has promise, but I would only rate it as 2.5, rounded up to 3 for the writing. Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Company for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Before the Ruins is scheduled for publication in November 2020.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Overall, I found the writing in this one tough to chew. It feels like the atmosphere was the main focus; however, the plot just fell to the wayside. I received an ecopy of this book via Netgalley; however, my opinions are my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from Netgalley.com. "Andy and Peter struggle to maintain their friendship, meeting only to drink to the past and trying not to talk about what happened at the manor. But when Peter goes missing, Andy is thrust back to that summer and the mysteries that still haven’t been solved. " Boy oh boy, this was rather boring. The characters were distant and I didn't feel close to anyone. The atmosphere of the story felt dreamlike and uncomfortable, the whole mystery never came together for I received this from Netgalley.com. "Andy and Peter struggle to maintain their friendship, meeting only to drink to the past and trying not to talk about what happened at the manor. But when Peter goes missing, Andy is thrust back to that summer and the mysteries that still haven’t been solved. " Boy oh boy, this was rather boring. The characters were distant and I didn't feel close to anyone. The atmosphere of the story felt dreamlike and uncomfortable, the whole mystery never came together for me. 2☆

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    2.5 stars I love a Gothic mystery, but, for me, this just wasn't it. I didn't feel the characters were flushed out well, they were just superficial. While this one had a good premise, it ultimately failed to deliver. The storytelling was wordy and at times, confusing. I'm not sure if I would read another book by this author. **Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley in exchange of an honest review.** 2.5 stars I love a Gothic mystery, but, for me, this just wasn't it. I didn't feel the characters were flushed out well, they were just superficial. While this one had a good premise, it ultimately failed to deliver. The storytelling was wordy and at times, confusing. I'm not sure if I would read another book by this author. **Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley in exchange of an honest review.**

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becki (millerreads)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It took me awhile after finishing this one to wrap my head around it. On one hand the mystery (within a mystery within a mystery) was compelling and I had a hard time putting it down, but I had to get through almost a third of the book before that happened. (Spoilers to follow). There were far too many story elements in both the past and present (some that ended up having no real relevance) that I was just confused, especially at the beginning. There was an alcoholic/mentally ill mother, child ab It took me awhile after finishing this one to wrap my head around it. On one hand the mystery (within a mystery within a mystery) was compelling and I had a hard time putting it down, but I had to get through almost a third of the book before that happened. (Spoilers to follow). There were far too many story elements in both the past and present (some that ended up having no real relevance) that I was just confused, especially at the beginning. There was an alcoholic/mentally ill mother, child abuse, implied sexual abuse, murder, bullying, a decades-old unsolved diamond theft, two best friends fighting over the same guy, cheating, corporate fraud, suicide, Russian mafia, devastating flooding, a career the MC is apparently so good at her boss is begging her to come back but no real context for it...it was just A LOT. As I read, I kept waiting for some of the elements to start making sense or lead me to some progression with the plot, but instead more just kept piling on. I think some of it was the writing style, the back and forth between past and present, and the inability to get a real sense of where the plot was headed or the characters themselves. (The latter may be by design; Andy after all, doesn’t really know who she is herself.) I think if I liked/cared about the characters more, this wouldn’t have bothered me as much, but there wasn’t a redeeming quality about Andy, and the ancillary characters weren’t much better. This also meant the ending was of no real consequence for me. All in all, I think this book had a good concept, but it got bogged down with too many story elements. 2.5 stars *Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Company for my advanced copy of this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessie S

    Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for this e-galley. After seeing the editor present this book at Buzz Books Presents, I had high expectations but it just did not deliver for me. Before The Ruins follows Andrea—Andy—in two time periods. She gets a call, present day, from Peter’s mother reporting he’s gone missing. Andy sets out to find him, based on events that happened twenty years prior. As teenagers, Andy, Peter, Marcus, Em, and David play around at a manor where, fifty years prior, Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for this e-galley. After seeing the editor present this book at Buzz Books Presents, I had high expectations but it just did not deliver for me. Before The Ruins follows Andrea—Andy—in two time periods. She gets a call, present day, from Peter’s mother reporting he’s gone missing. Andy sets out to find him, based on events that happened twenty years prior. As teenagers, Andy, Peter, Marcus, Em, and David play around at a manor where, fifty years prior, a diamond necklace went missing and was never found. They spend years trying to find the real ones, even buying fake diamonds from a charity shop to hide and make believe. When one game goes a little too far, friendships are betrayed and an end comes to the game. Before The Ruins is a character-driven novel, not plot-driven, which I would’ve liked to know ahead of time. I thought this would be a thriller, a bit of a mystery. The mystery was there, but it took 70% of the book to get to the inciting incident from years ago. This was a super slow burn for me and I couldn’t read for long periods of time. It didn’t hold my attention, I didn't connect with Andy as the POV character, and the writing sometimes turned very poetic which seemed out of place to me. I would have liked the mystery to come out sooner and for Andy to open herself up to readers. Based on her thoughts, I didn't think many of her actions made sense and in general, she was super distant to readers. The writing was reminiscent of Sally Rooney and overall was well done, but the end suddenly became deep and philosophical and I didn’t think it fit the overall voice. I also felt like apart from Peter and the death, there was really no suspense or thrill. The ending was anticlimactic and you kind of figured what happened. No shock factor. You’ll have to give this a shot and see how you like it yourself. Before The Ruins will be published by Henry Holt and Co. in November!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josianne Haag

    This was surprising for me - for one thing because it leaned much more into a mysery novel than a thriller, but also because the characters felt so real. Many of the main characters apprehensions and worries mimic a lot of the insecurities that most of us face. Though the severity is more sharp for her. I loved the way it all played out, the slow accumulation of knowledge. The ending was exactly what I wanted, without it having to be this crazy finale or predictable. I could not put this book dow This was surprising for me - for one thing because it leaned much more into a mysery novel than a thriller, but also because the characters felt so real. Many of the main characters apprehensions and worries mimic a lot of the insecurities that most of us face. Though the severity is more sharp for her. I loved the way it all played out, the slow accumulation of knowledge. The ending was exactly what I wanted, without it having to be this crazy finale or predictable. I could not put this book down the entire time I read it. Thank you to the author and goodreads for giving me this book through the giveaway program.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Geraldine (geraldinereads)

    Before the Ruins flips back and forth between present day and 20 years ago. We follow five friends who experience lies, betrayal, love, and death. In present day, Andrea (Andy) is searching for her missing friend, Peter and has to revisit old friendships along with the events that took place in the manor house. When I first picked this up, I thought that this book was going to be about finding a hidden diamond necklace in a deserted manor house, but it's not the main focus. The story focuses more Before the Ruins flips back and forth between present day and 20 years ago. We follow five friends who experience lies, betrayal, love, and death. In present day, Andrea (Andy) is searching for her missing friend, Peter and has to revisit old friendships along with the events that took place in the manor house. When I first picked this up, I thought that this book was going to be about finding a hidden diamond necklace in a deserted manor house, but it's not the main focus. The story focuses more on the characters themselves rather than the mystery behind the treasure hunt. The first half of the book was extremely slow, and I didn't get invested into the story until certain things started happening about 60% of the way through. Around that time, the mystery starts unraveling and the pace of the story picks up a little. This was marketed as a mystery/thriller, but I don't really think it's either. This is more of a slow burning, contemporary read. It's extremely character driven rather than a fast-paced, plot driven book. As long as you don't go into this book expecting a fast-paced thriller, you won't be disappointed! The writing is beautiful and poetic at times. I think I would've appreciated it more if I had known this book was character driven vs. plot driven. Overall, you will really love this one if you gravitate towards character driven stories or slow burning reads. If you enjoyed the Secret History, Catherine House or Tana French, give this book a shot! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-arc!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie

    I saw someone say in another review say this book is reminiscent of Secret History by Donna Tartt and I can definitely see similarities in the way the story was told. It is a slow burn and it unfolds at a very specific pace. It is told from Andy’s point of view - she’s very rough and hard and it’s clear from the get go that she is dealing with (or not dealing with it really) some serious trauma. Everything about who she is and how she deals with the world is a by product of her life and the thin I saw someone say in another review say this book is reminiscent of Secret History by Donna Tartt and I can definitely see similarities in the way the story was told. It is a slow burn and it unfolds at a very specific pace. It is told from Andy’s point of view - she’s very rough and hard and it’s clear from the get go that she is dealing with (or not dealing with it really) some serious trauma. Everything about who she is and how she deals with the world is a by product of her life and the things that she has survived. She is a survivor - that’s at the core of who she is and how she sees the world. She’s protective of herself and her life and who she allows into it. And her only tenuous lifeline, her oldest friend Peter, slowly disintegrates until he goes missing and she feels as though she needs to be the one to find him. (Not a spoiler - this is literally in the description.) The book is written beautifully - the way Gosling writes is very lyrical and poetic. It really paints the world and these characters lives and gives a bittersweet look into who they are and why they came apart. The story itself is not a mystery exactly, not in the truest sense of the word. I say that because when all is said and done - it isn’t really about the mystery of the ruins, the necklace, David. It certainly plays a role in Andy’s arc and how she comes out of everything, but ultimately this is a story about love and self loathing and the things people do to one another when they feel wronged. It’s about the things they do for those they hate as well as those they love. It’s about relationships that are toxic and hard and about the ones that make us feel again. It’s hard to really review this without giving much away so I’ll leave it at that. It is not going to be for everyone but it is one that will sit with me for some time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Morgan

    This one's a hard one for me to review... For the first section of the book I had trouble getting into it. Maybe it was the British terms or just the style of the writing, or both, whatever the reason I just struggled. Then I decided I would have to give this book my undivided attention to appreciate its prose and original plot. No TV, no music, nothing but me and this book. By the end I absolutely loved it. This is a slow read to be sure but once I was invested I couldn't put it down. Part myste This one's a hard one for me to review... For the first section of the book I had trouble getting into it. Maybe it was the British terms or just the style of the writing, or both, whatever the reason I just struggled. Then I decided I would have to give this book my undivided attention to appreciate its prose and original plot. No TV, no music, nothing but me and this book. By the end I absolutely loved it. This is a slow read to be sure but once I was invested I couldn't put it down. Part mystery, part coming of age and part a story about friendship, love, jealousy, secrets and longing but ultimately it's about finding your own way in this challenging world. I can't say I really liked Andy, the central character but by the end I came to have an appreciation of her that I found endearing. Her friends and family are all so well drawn that I feel I really got to know them and their idiosyncrasies. From the alcoholic mother to the betrayed best friend, I found my heart going out to them and hoping for a happy resolution. So what started as a two or three star book ended up being a five star read that I compromised on to four stars. If you're looking for an easy reading, fast paced, typical mystery that we've come to expect, this is not that book. This one is wholly original, atmospheric, beautifully written and worth all the attention it demands.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn McGill Dalrymple

    Interesting book, I liked the fact that it was a fairly short book so easily read over a couple of days. Very creepy wintery atmospheric feel to this one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    This is a DNF for me. Sadly I just couldn’t get with the way it was written and it seemed to jump around and had me lost numerous times.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Faith Hurst-Bilinski

    Oh, for the want of an honest friend to say, "Dude, just say what you mean!" Before the Ruins is a good story. It is an interesting mystery. It even seems to overcome the trope of hinting at something for 200 pages and then finally saying it. But it doesn't say it. It doesn't say what it means. Ever. It is written in a way that seems to want to write around everything that is happening. Just say it. Just show it. Tell the story. Oh, for the want of an honest friend to say, "Dude, just say what you mean!" Before the Ruins is a good story. It is an interesting mystery. It even seems to overcome the trope of hinting at something for 200 pages and then finally saying it. But it doesn't say it. It doesn't say what it means. Ever. It is written in a way that seems to want to write around everything that is happening. Just say it. Just show it. Tell the story.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Why are ruined English manor houses such a great setting? And ones with a mysterious death and missing jewels? If I'd grown up near Andy, Peter, Marcus and Em, I'd have tried to get into their gang and play the same game hunting for the jewels. Who knows if I would have fallen for David? The relationship tangles that ensue have consequences that linger for decades - and when Andrea tries to figure out what happened to Peter and why he has now disappeared, they continue to create stress and compl Why are ruined English manor houses such a great setting? And ones with a mysterious death and missing jewels? If I'd grown up near Andy, Peter, Marcus and Em, I'd have tried to get into their gang and play the same game hunting for the jewels. Who knows if I would have fallen for David? The relationship tangles that ensue have consequences that linger for decades - and when Andrea tries to figure out what happened to Peter and why he has now disappeared, they continue to create stress and complications. The constant veering from 38-year-old Andrea to 18-year-old Andy, from London to Venice to the manor house does sometimes make it difficult to follow, and there are some set pieces that go on for far too long. Of course there are revelations "today" that explain "back then", but not all of them relate to the central Where is Peter question. It felt at times as there was some padding, and the assumption that we readers were interested in details that could have been ignored or minimized led to the loss of points. eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    The title and cover were intriguing. So was the idea of a group of young people exploring a manor house and competing in a game to discover a rumored treasure. What I discovered was a much more nuanced and beautifully written debut novel. Readers looking for a quick reading mystery will be disappointed. Before the Ruins is character driven and paced to allow the reader to savor the poetic language. It's more likely to appeal to those who have enjoyed Donna Tartt or Tana French. Basically the stor The title and cover were intriguing. So was the idea of a group of young people exploring a manor house and competing in a game to discover a rumored treasure. What I discovered was a much more nuanced and beautifully written debut novel. Readers looking for a quick reading mystery will be disappointed. Before the Ruins is character driven and paced to allow the reader to savor the poetic language. It's more likely to appeal to those who have enjoyed Donna Tartt or Tana French. Basically the story is Andy now Andrea looking back on the events of the summer of 1996 which changed her life and that of her friends forever through one fatal mistake. Now one of them is missing and Andrea feels compelled to find him no matter what. Her search leads to reflection on what is truly important and the reader will be doing the same. Slow down, pay attention, and enjoy the journey. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    It's easy to see that this book will be a commercial success: compelling premise, excellent writing, fast pace, suspense (will Andy be an unreliable narrator?), and many twists and turns. There are in fact a few too many twists and turns, and like many novels of this type, this can irritate, but only in a small way. You expect the characters to encounter more than the average number of shocking circumstances, crimes, betrayals, etc, and they most certainly do. I found one key big reveal, involvi It's easy to see that this book will be a commercial success: compelling premise, excellent writing, fast pace, suspense (will Andy be an unreliable narrator?), and many twists and turns. There are in fact a few too many twists and turns, and like many novels of this type, this can irritate, but only in a small way. You expect the characters to encounter more than the average number of shocking circumstances, crimes, betrayals, etc, and they most certainly do. I found one key big reveal, involving Joe, to be blatantly obvious, but not to the novel's detriment. All in all, a solid debut with well-deserved early accolades. Would recommend. PS. Beautiful cover.

  27. 5 out of 5

    LS

    Before the Ruins is a story in two timelines--one in the present, and the other 20 years ago. The narrator, Andrea (Andy for short) is searching for her best friend, Peter, who has stopped contacting his parents. They became friends as teenagers, during a period when they were searching for a diamond necklace that was reputedly lost on the grounds of an abandoned manor house. The description of this book grabbed me from the start. I was expecting an old-fashioned Gothic mystery, but the narrative Before the Ruins is a story in two timelines--one in the present, and the other 20 years ago. The narrator, Andrea (Andy for short) is searching for her best friend, Peter, who has stopped contacting his parents. They became friends as teenagers, during a period when they were searching for a diamond necklace that was reputedly lost on the grounds of an abandoned manor house. The description of this book grabbed me from the start. I was expecting an old-fashioned Gothic mystery, but the narrative itself was not what I expected. This is a slow-paced novel that requires the reader to offer all their attention. Probably due to the pandemic and all the stress it has brought to my life, I had trouble concentrating on the story. Consequently, I got somewhat lost in the plot. But I blame myself for this, not the author. Many other reviewers have commented on the poetic writing, and I wish I had read it at another time in my life. Perhaps I will come back to it at a later time. Overall, I would say this is a book for readers who are willing to spend some time and effort with the story. This is not a book to be rushed through. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest opinions.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    While Before the Ruins is billed as a mystery, it really is more of a character study of the protagonist. Andy is a complex and multi-layered individual and I felt I was able to connect and empathize with her. I also liked reading about her relationship with David. Yet, I could have done with more scenes developing their relationship. I didn’t really get a sense of why they were so drawn to each other. Their love story didn’t convince me. But it was sweet. There are technically a few mysteries i While Before the Ruins is billed as a mystery, it really is more of a character study of the protagonist. Andy is a complex and multi-layered individual and I felt I was able to connect and empathize with her. I also liked reading about her relationship with David. Yet, I could have done with more scenes developing their relationship. I didn’t really get a sense of why they were so drawn to each other. Their love story didn’t convince me. But it was sweet. There are technically a few mysteries in this novel but none of them really drew my attention. It’s Andy and the characters that ultimately kept me entertained. Additionally, the prose is absolutely gorgeous. Victoria Gosling is able to depict beautiful imagery and evoke feelings in me most writers can’t. Ultimately, I only gave this 3 stars because I needed more. I needed the relationships and friendships to be drawn out more. I needed more dialogue. I needed to be convinced of this epic love between Andy and David. I needed to see why Peter and Andy were best friends. So while I enjoyed the prose and the depth of Andy, there were elements that needed to be expanded upon more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    Peter, one of four childhood friends, has gone missing. Peter’s parents contact his closest childhood friend, Andy( Andrea) and implore her to find Peter. This request sets Andy on a search for Peter and on a search for self realization, reaching back into her past. Told in alternating timelines, she relives a time twenty years ago when an abandoned manor house, a mystery of missing diamonds, and a horrible tragedy dominated the group’s lives. Andy reconnects with her childhood friends, dredges Peter, one of four childhood friends, has gone missing. Peter’s parents contact his closest childhood friend, Andy( Andrea) and implore her to find Peter. This request sets Andy on a search for Peter and on a search for self realization, reaching back into her past. Told in alternating timelines, she relives a time twenty years ago when an abandoned manor house, a mystery of missing diamonds, and a horrible tragedy dominated the group’s lives. Andy reconnects with her childhood friends, dredges up painful memories and reexamines her life choices. This book has a lot of potential.It is not a conventional mystery. The plot unfolds at a leisurely and sometimes circuitous pace.The writing at points is very descriptive and evokes a sense of unease. I found Andy to be a well drawn character full of emotional depth. Her coterie of friends were less well depicted and much more unlikeable. At its core, this novel centers on Andy’s self discovery and struggles to reconcile her difficult childhood. I found this aspect of the book more interesting than the explication of the mystery. On balance, there is merit in this debut novel.I would be amenable to reading the author’s follow up effort.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda McCutcheon

    Imagine sitting around the radio back in the days before TV anxiously waiting for the next episode of your favorite drama mystery. That feeling of excitement and giddiness is what I felt everytime I hit play for the poetically written audiobook Before The Ruins by debut author Victoria Gosling. On the surface this is a murder mystery but at its core it is a novel of substance about coming of age, friendship, and love. Andy gets a call that her friend of over 20 years Peter is missing and as she de Imagine sitting around the radio back in the days before TV anxiously waiting for the next episode of your favorite drama mystery. That feeling of excitement and giddiness is what I felt everytime I hit play for the poetically written audiobook Before The Ruins by debut author Victoria Gosling. On the surface this is a murder mystery but at its core it is a novel of substance about coming of age, friendship, and love. Andy gets a call that her friend of over 20 years Peter is missing and as she desperately searches for him she takes us back to their teen years and the night in an abandoned manor house where everything changed for them and their friends. What was suppose to be a fun treasure hunt to find a missing diamond necklace that supposedly was hidden in the manor decades ago turns into a nightmare of secrets and lies that will not stay hidden any longer. This is not a typical thriller. It is a story of changing lives and loves. The narrator @kristinatherton is a revelation of voices and innuendo as she performs this would be theatrical story written almost like a Shakespearean sonnet. There are many parts to this tale and I had to have no distractions while listening to the story. No cleaning, no driving, no crafting. It is involved and often intense but very much worth the effort. I received a free copy of this audiobook from MacMillan Audio for a free and honest review. All opinions are my own.

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