Category Archives: Before We Were Strangers

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

Title: Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she’s determined to uncover her family’s dark secrets, even if they bury her.

Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone.

The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?


Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak is a perplexing mystery in which a daughter returns home determined to uncover the truth about her mother’s disappearance twenty-three years earlier.

Ten years ago, Sloane McBride left home and completely cut everyone, including her boyfriend Micah Evans and her best friend Paige, out of her life. She is a sought-after model but after the death of her close friend and agent, she is ready to find out what happened to her mother, Clara.  When Sloane was five years old, Clara vanished without  a trace following an vicious argument with her husband, Ed. Sloane has long suspected her father might have murdered her mother but when she was younger, she had no idea how to prove her theory. Ed and her brother Randy are not pleased with her return and Ed does everything he can to drive her away. Fortunately, Paige welcomes her into her life and provides her a place to stay. But Sloane soon discovers her former best friend might not be entirely sincere about repairing their friendship.  She also continues crossing paths with Micah and she is dismayed to learn the passage of time has not lessened her love for him nor his animosity over her departure ten years ago. Will Sloane find out for certain that her father murdered her mother? Is her friendship with Paige too fractured to repair? Can Micah forgive Sloane for breaking his heart?

After her mother’s disappearance, Sloane’s childhood is miserable since her father is a controlling, emotionally cold and selfish person. She and Randy are also at odds because he was does not share her conviction their father harmed their mother.  Sloane’s friendship with Paige is extremely close and she considers her to be the sister of her heart.  After she begind dating Micah, Sloane overlooks Paige’s attempts to garner his attention, but their once close friendship suffers from Paige’s jealousy. Sloane loves Micah with all of her heart but she knows she cannot remain in town and that he will never leave. Sloane leaves abruptly leaves without telling anyone her plans and she severs ties with everyone.

Now ready to find out the truth about why her mother vanished, Sloane immediately begins playing amateur sleuth. After learning new details, she is certain her theory is right but she knows she will need definitive proof to take to the police. Although Sloane is dismayed by the information about her mother, she does not let this prevent her from following up on the new lead.  Convinced she is on the right track, Sloane tenaciously keeps digging for answers despite her father’s blatant attempts to stop her investigation.

Before We Were Strangers is a well-written mystery that often becomes overshadowed by drama and conflict with people from Sloane’s past. Sloane is a likable character but her hand-wringing over father becomes tedious.  Ed is a despicable villain whose behavior is over the top. Paige is an annoying woman who refuses to accept that she is the author of her misery. The investigation into what happened to Clara is quite fascinating. With some unexpected twists and turns  Brenda Novak brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion. Fans of the genre will enjoy this engaging mystery.

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