Title: When I was You
Author: Minka Kent
Genre: mystery thriller, fiction
What’s it About: Brienne Dougray sits on her porch and watches people in her neighborhood. It has become her habit ever since her attack several months prior after work, where she was nearly left for dead. She receives a key to an apartment building in her name, and makes a mental note to reach out to them and find out more. She also prepares a dinner and some wine for her tenant, Niall Emberlin, a oncology doctor at the nearby hospital. When he returns that night, they enjoy an amicable dinner, and head up to sleep. Niall had shown up not too long after her attack when her friends decided that she needed to have someone with her, and they have since distanced themselves.
Within the week, Brienne reaches out to the apartment building, The Hartcourt, and finds out that apparently she has rented an apartment there, but she has no recollection of that. She makes her way to the apartment building, and lets herself into the apartment to explore it before she almost gets caught by the Brienne Dougray returning into the apartment. Brienne hides in the closet and then escapes from the apartment to her home, an old victorian in very good condition. She ends up having a migraine that results in her having to take medication, and passing out. Brienne recalls that Niall at some point had come to her and taken care of her as she was passing out that night, but when she asks him the following day, he tells her that it wasn’t him.
This puts her into a frenzy, where she starts checking all of the windows and doors in the house while cleaning, and she checks out his room, where she finds the journal of Kate Emberlin. She starts reading it, and gets caught when Niall comes home. He tells her that he and Kate are divorcing, though he still loves her. Brienne feels bad for him, but wonders more about their relationship. She then, on two separate occasions, attempts to confront the woman living as Brienne Dougray, including checking Instagram for the woman’s profile, which shows the woman as actually doing everything that Brienne used to do before her attack.
Niall takes her on dates to restaurants, and they have a very good time together. Then one day, Brienne decides to go confront the other Brienne at her own PR agency. While waiting for her, Niall shows up and tells her that she is in fact his wife–Kate Emberlin-and she has a dissociative identity disorder. He then tells her that she has been obsessed with Brienne, who she hired for her own insurance agency, and while they were good friends, she became too stalker-ish, but Brienne was so kind to her so long as she got taken care of. He then reveals that Kate has previously been in psychiatric care for the same disorder, and they both agree to take her to a treatment facility. The closest one that Niall finds is three hours away, and he takes Brienne there, to get treated.
Niall then drives back to the Old Victorian and calls Sam, his girlfriend who lives in the Harcourt, and has the job at the PR agency under Brienne Dougray’s name. They have been childhood friends and lovers, and Sam had taken the fall for a crime committed by Niall, making her a bit difficult to employ. As such, when they moved to the town, Niall recommended that she take the name Brienne Dougray, and actually sent her resumes to different companies before she got the job at the PR Agency. The next few days, Niall spends his time looking for documents and records of Brienne’s accounts. He finds them, writes down their numbers, and also resets Brienne’s passwords to her bank accounts, which have over $13million. He then proceeds to cash out Brienne’s retirement fund, as well as her account–via checks, wire transfers and ATM withdrawals–to the tune of over $3million. At the same time, he keeps working his job being a transporter of individuals in the local hospital, and tells Sam that his elderly client, Eleanor, is gone for the week to visit family so that she can crash with him at the house.
Niall reveals that he was actually a kid growing up in Nebraska with an alcoholic and abusive father. His stepmother, Sonya, raised him after his father passed away, and they were very close. She revealed to him that she was the daughter of the Dougrays who were well off, with millions in their accounts, and that she had been cut off access from it. Even when she wanted to go back after cleaning up her act in order to get custody of her daughter, Brienne, the parents continued to leave her cut off. She died from cancer without a penny to her name, and Niall always believed that she would have wanted revenge for that, so he took it upon himself to try to get access to the money by stealing it. His plan was to take the money and Sam, and run to a foreign country so that no one could find them, where they would live out the rest of their lives. He promises Sam that he has saved up a lot of money from his two jobs and will take them on a trip. He hatched his plan after Brienne’s attack when he overheard her friends talking about her needing a roommate, and then decided to swipe a doctor’s ID card for Niall Emberlin. He also sent the text messages to Marisol’s husband to isolate Brienne.
In the meantime, Brienne continues to live in the facility, and continues reading her documents and records for Kate. She slowly realizes, as she learns more about the disorder, that she in fact is not Kate, and begins acting as Kate in order to get out. This prompts calls to Niall who comes to visit her, and then tells the nurse that he believes that she is pretending to be Kate. When Brienne goes for her morning session to the Dr to talk about her diagnosis, she asks him if there is a way to get out of the center, and whether he has been able to establish any information that Kate has existed.
Three days later, Brienne is freed, and heads home, surprising Niall. Both of them begin to pretend–Brienne as Kate, and Niall as the loving husband of Kate–though Niall tries to poison her with Anti-Freeze. It doesn’t take long for Brienne to figure out that Niall had moved money out of her accounts–thanks to an email that she had received from her accountant warning her to not cash the checks. Brienne goes to visit her friend, Marisol, who tells her the reason why they stopped talking and reveals that she never actually changed her number.
As they tiptoe around each other, Brienne makes sure to freeze all of the accounts, and opens up a new bank account in a different bank, for money that she can use. Niall in the meantime keeps trying to get the money wired out of Brienne’s accounts, and tries to go as far as calling the bank to unfreeze the accounts, though they do not. While running errands and meeting up with her friends to tell them what actually is going on, Brienne decides to visit a mall, where she finds Sam. The two of them talk, while Niall continues to worry about where Sam is because she had lied to him on the phone call the other night. Sam tells Brienne what is going on, how it started, and that is when Brienne puts it together that her connection with Niall is Sonya, her mother, who made some really bad choices in life and ended up being cut off from the inheritance.
Sam decides to confront Niall–whose real name is Shane Knudsen–and drives over to the house, where she does actually confront him. She tells him that he will fix it, and then walks out, which is something that Shane had never seen her actually do. He tries to beg , but she continues to leave, and then he decides that Sam will actually be back because that’s always how they made up in the past–her showing up in the morning with kisses and great sex. He then finds his syringe of potassium chloride, and waits for Brienne to show up. He hears someone enter and finds Brienne in her room and attacks her.
At the same time, Brienne finishes up at the police department, where she gets told that they will visit her house, but that there’s not much else they can do. The detective tells her that they found the person responsible for her attack and that he’s already in prison on a different charge. She visits her friend Marisol but decides to head home to check on Sam, because she doesn’t believe that Shane will let her go alive. Marisol gives her a gun and Brienne makes her way over to find Shane choking Sam. She points the gun at him and tells him that Sonya never actually cared about him, because she had written letters to her, where she never once mentioned Shane. Brienne never mentions that she didn’t actually read any of the letters until way after both her mother and grandparents died, making it too late to actually do anything about things. Shane doesn’t believe her, but she goes into the room, finds them, and then bumps into Shane on her way out the door, realizing that she left her gun behind. A fight ensues, and Brienne ends up falling down the stairs.
Shane then takes Sam in his car, and they start driving out of town, only to be pulled over for running a red light by none other than Brian–his coworker who also works as a reserve police officer. Sam climbs out of the car, and Shane decides to lead a car chase.
When Brienne wakes up a few days later, she is in the hospital, and Shane is apprehended. He decides to accept the jail where he won’t have to pay rent or do anything, which he wants. After she gets out of the hospital, Brienne visits Sam and forgives her for her role–or lack thereof–in the whole thing.
Three months after that, Brienne has packed up her grandparent’s house, deciding to rent it out. She has managed to get back some of the funds that Shane stole, but he had diversified where he put the funds, including some cryptocurrency, which had since went down in value. As she says good-bye to the house, Brienne is surrounded by friends and good memories, with a plan to travel around the US for the next year.
Verdict: If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like figuring out who the culprit is very quickly, then this is not the book for you. It became evident very quickly on to me that Niall was the one who was preying on Brienne’s insecurities after her attack, of which he wasn’t the cause. What made me figure it out right away was when the neighbor mentioned to Brienne that Niall was feeding the neighborhood cat, even though Brienne believed that he was allergic to them.
And so for the rest of the time–when she was taken to the psychiatric care under Niall’s explanation that she is suffering an identity disorder and that she was really Kate Emberlin, I sat there in complete disbelief that Brienne was trusting him. So even though I figured it out early on, I knew that I wanted see whether or not Brienne would figure out what was going on and get justice for what was happening. She did, which was nice to see.
But because of this I have some mixed feelings about the book. I don’t know if I liked how obvious it was that Niall was the one behind it, though at the same time, it allowed me to focus on the “how will she figure it out” part of the book.
So if you don’t mind that, the book is actually a fun read, but if you don’t like that, then please avoid this book at all costs.