Life before

Lori Spyker is taking her kids to school one unremarkable day when a policeman delivers the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been injured and hospitalised following a hit and run. Lori hasn’t seen Scott in decades. She appears to be his only contact. Should she take responsibility for him? Can she? And, if she does, how will she tell her own family about her hidden history, kept secret for so long?

Twenty years before, when she and Scott were teenagers, their lives and futures, and those of their family, had been shattered. Now, as Lori tries to piece together her brother’s present, she is forced to confront their shared past-and the terrible truth buried there that had driven them so far apart.

Life before tells the story of an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. What if the worst thing you can imagine isn’t the worst thing to happen? How do you go on? And what steps will you take to protect yourself from further pain?

BUy online


The characters and voice are stunning, and such tension!    I was holding my breath, and that doesn’t happen often.

Toni Jordan, author of Addition and The Fragments


…an unputdownable read that keeps you guessing, and thinking for a long time after about its haunting themes.

Ann Turner, author of The Lost Swimmer and Out of the Ice


A standout debut.

Who Magazine


Life Before is literary fiction. (Carmel is a master of subtle, poignant details, of flawed and familiar characters). But it is also a thickening mystery, a story of the past creeping back into the present; of cracks beginning to form.

Good Reading Magazine


This cinematic novel uses its split chonology to push the complex plot along and reveal one unexpected turn after another, with a bombshell at the end.

The Age


…a compelling, deliberate, devastating read…

Readings Monthly


This domestic noir is full of exquisite descriptions that have you clearly seeing and feeling each character.

The Herald Sun


…two beautifully interwoven storylines…

New Zealand Herald


This is the kind of book that lingers well after it has been read.

The Weekly Times


Carmel Reilly’s Life Before is a compelling debut thriller

Better Reading



Queen of crime

Queen of Crime

Carmel’s short story, ‘Another Life’ won first prize in the Queen of Crime short story awards in 2011 and is included in the Queen of Crime anthology 2013.

What the judge said:

[Another Life] was outstanding because it was both simple and very clever! …I was impressed by the author’s readable style and characterisation, and her ingenuity in telling the story…