Quick Review: BEFORE SHE FINDS ME by Heather Chavez (Mulholland)

ChavezH-BeforeSheFindsMeUSHCTwo mothers race to uncover the truth behind a horrific attack, placing them on a potentially deadly collision course…

Julia Bennett has worked hard to create a stable life for her daughter, Cora, in Southern California. So when Cora leaves for college, the worst thing Julia expects on move-in day is an argument with her ex-husband and his new wife. But a sudden attack leaves the campus stunned — and only Julia’s quick actions save Cora’s life. Shaken in the aftermath, and haunted by a dark secret, Julia starts to wonder: What if the attack wasn’t as random as everyone believes?

Newly pregnant Ren Petrovic has an unusual career — she’s a trained assassin, operating under a strict moral code. Ren wasn’t on campus that day, but she knows who was: her husband, Nolan. What she doesn’t know is why Nolan has broken their rules by not telling her about the job in advance. The more Ren looks into the attack, the more she begins to question: Who really hired Nolan? And why did one woman in the crowd respond so differently from all the rest?

Julia and Ren each want answers, but their searches quickly pit them against each other. One woman is a hired killer, but the other is a determined survivor. And both mothers will defend their families to the bitter end.

This is Heather Chavez’s third novel, but the first that I’ve read. Based on Before She Finds Me, though, this will not be my last. An interesting story of two women whose lives become entwined against their wills, I enjoyed this.

Alternating between the perspectives of Julia and Ren, Before She Finds Me tells the story of two quite different women, being thrown into each others’ paths due to the actions of others. Chavez parcels out hints behind various events over the course of the whole novel (although, one reveal wasn’t as much of a surprise as I think it was meant to be — it was the only logical twist), which keeps the story moving nicely. Both Julia and Ren are navigating their respective family’s distinct dynamics and issues, trying to ensure that they are neither left behind nor have their opinions and agency disregarded by those around them. Ultimately, neither family is going to come out of this plot unscathed. Julia and Ren both want to get to the bottom of what has happened, and the deadly shooting that opens the novel — each of them will develop new scars as their quests for the truth uncover painful secrets.

One of the first things that jumped out at me when reading Before She Finds Me is how good Chavez is at characterization. There was no point when I thought either Julia or Ren weren’t realistic. Everything about them was well realized and written. I found myself rooting for them both; which was interesting as the novel progressed, as they are on an inevitable collision course. Also, given Ren’s profession… well, how could this end with both “winning”? Happily, Chavez comes up with an ending that was mostly satisfying. Julia’s backstory was interesting, but perhaps built up a little more than it should have been — some suggestions were a bit misleading, but not in a “twist in the tale” sort of way, which made me question some of the ways she’s written. Ultimately, though, she’s a great protagonist (as is Ren), and I never struggled to continue reading and remaining invested in her fate.

A fast-paced, but by no means rushed plot, good protagonists and supporting cast, and a few twists for good measure. What more can one ask for? I enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to giving Chavez’s other novels a try.



Heather Chavez’s Before She Finds Me is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on June 27th.

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