The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Two wounded women reeling from personal issues are looking for a new apartment. For Emma, she requires a safe place after being the victim of a break-in while her loyal boyfriend, Simon, was out. For Jane, it is a new place that holds no reminders of the baby she lost. For each woman, the house at One Folgate Street seems to offer exactly what they are looking for. It is designed by well-known architect, Edward Monkford, and comes with a set of rules created by the inscrutable man himself. In fact, to live at One Folgate Streets means signing off on over 200 rules, ranging from no books or personal mementos, to total tidiness, to agreeing to showing the house on architectural tours, to accepting to the intense technology that it comes with, including the house monitoring your well-being and moods. At first, the rules and clarity that come with One Folgate Street seem comforting to Emma and Jane. But as they spend more time in the house--and learn about its past, including its mysterious builder--they become terrifying and stifling.
THE GIRL BEFORE is a fascinating novel told solely from the point of view of Emma, One Folgate Street's previous tenant, and Jane, its current tenant. All activities are filtered through the lens of these two women. The novel effectively builds suspense with the parallel nature of the two women's stories, but it also can get a little repetitive at times (and sometimes a little confusing, as you have to remind yourself, mostly in the beginning, who is talking). The book starts off exciting, as you are drawn into both Emma and Jane's tales while they acclimate to the house and all the oddities it offers. The house itself almost becomes another character in the novel. It starts to drag a bit halfway through as you wonder what will happen in the next half (people living in a technologically advanced house can only be so exciting, right?). But then, suddenly, the novel takes some odd turns (there are some interesting sexual plot twists) and eventually grows quite interesting again with some psychological and thrilling revelations. Perhaps my favorite part about this book is that many of these developments truly surprised me, which isn't always easy to do in a thriller.
Overall, this is an interesting novel. It's certainly suspenseful and different. To enjoy it, you really have to set your disbelief aside at the actual conditions of living at One Folgate Street (no books, what?!) and accept that the two women are so broken (and perhaps broke, as the house apparently comes at a great discount) that they will go along with anything. It has a lot of varied plot threads and some of them aren't always fully explored or truly necessary, which can be a little frustrating. Still, the book truly surprised me with its twists and kept me entertained, with a deep desire to get to the end. Overall, 3.5+ stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 01/24/2017.
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