Before She was Helen Thrives in Terror

Caroline B. Cooney’s latest book dives into the terror of a persons life in the past and life in the present.

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney: Hardback, 336 pages

Poisoned Pen Press Publishing

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney: Hardback, 336 pages

Elicia Ramu, Editor

When fans realized that best-selling author Caroline B. Cooney had come out with yet another mystery thrilling book their excitement began to rise instantly. On September 8, 2020, Cooney’s newest book Before She Was Helen hit the streets and a new journey began for Cooney’s fans. With a riveting storyline based around a bunch of elderly people, the story keeps the readers content and interested as they delve into the past of the book’s main character and the many lives that she lives. Using suspense, karma, and heartbreak Before She Was Helen was able to draw the reader in with its dramatic turn of events and it’s multiple plot twists throughout the story. 

Living two different lives is hard enough. To live two different lives with two different murders is even harder. Before She Was Helen is a book about just that. Back in the 50s the book’s main character Clemmie was living her life to the fullest until she was assaulted by her older brother’s basketball coach Rudyard Creek. After that, she was on the run. While being stalked by her same attacker throughout her college career and longer Clemmie was terrified. It wasn’t until she remembered the papers that she had in her bottom drawer of her dresser at home that Clemmie Remembered. After she got the papers back Clemmie went from being Clemmie to being Helen Stephens her new identity for the rest of her life. That is until Clemmie made the mistake of taking a photo of something very valuable that could possibly make it so that her two lives would collide and the two mysterious murders that happened in both lives would collide as well. Will Helen be able to keep her secret identity a secret or will everything come out and into the public now that she’s connected to two different murders in some way or another? 

One thing that Cooney does really well that is seen especially in Before She Was Helen is her sense of time and the way that she uses flashbacks to help the reader to understand what Clemmie has gone through. Cooney was able to make both the 50s and the present so palpable and vivid that I was truly able to understand what Clemmie was going through and I felt like I was standing there right next to her through multiple parts of the book. and why she is still struggling to heal and get over the pain and anguish that her life was during her teenage years. It was very clear to the reader to be able to see that even after 50 years of Clemmie’s attacker being dead the re-opening of a cold case brought all the fear that Clemmie had as a teenager back. As a reader, it was very clear to see how hard it was for Clemmie to get over her past and to be able to fully trust people. Cooney did a really good job of doing just that so proficiently throughout the book. 

Caroline B. Cooney also knows how to pace her books just right. Before She Was Helen was paced perfectly. It wasn’t too slow but it wasn’t too faced either and there was always something interesting to keep the reader entertained. Whether it be Clemmie’s past or Helen’s life in the present every little detail was described perfectly. One thing that I loved the most was how Cooney described Helen’s community and how throughout the whole book you just saw a community full of elderly people who would just let themselves into their friends’ houses. It was really interesting to see how even if a member of Sun City Community despised another person there really was no stopping them from just walking into your house. It’s ironic how simple it was for a person to get in without an invitation. The crime itself didn’t go by too quickly due to the way that Cooney paced the story. It was dealing with one crime at one part to going back in time and remembering parts of another crime that was committed. In between both crimes were little details that helped the reader to understand the other craziness that was going on in Clemmie’s life. 

Before She Was Helen is a book that may not be intense throughout the whole thing but is super interesting and a perfect read for anyone who loves a good double homicide. If you’re looking for a good read or just a good mystery book this book is for you. I loved being able to read the story and watch Clemmie as she grew to be the person she was today. It was fascinating although saddening to see what Clemmie had gone through as a teenager and how it had affected the outcome of her life. However, that is not to say that it wasn’t also fascinating watching Clemmie’s two lives almost collide into each other. The book is not very predictable and is an enjoyable read for sure. I would recommend picking up Before She Was Helen if you’re looking for a good read. Cooney did an amazing job with this book by using her powers of description, a well balanced paced read, and a constant suspenseful build-up. Before She was Helen is a remarkable read full of drama, suspense, heartbreak, and fear that will satisfy any mystery lover who reads it.