Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive – and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant – and it does.
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street, she is instantly drawn to the space – and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror as the girl before.
I won a copy of this book as part of a competition.
The Girl Before offers up a psychological thriller with a different direction from the norm. Told from the perspective of our two protagonists – Emma and Jane, the reader is taken on a journey through their lives. Two women with troubled pasts for very different reasons, Emma and Jane are both seeking new homes to move on and rebuild their lives. Written in a past and present format, following the narratives of Emma, the girl before, and Jane in the present in a parallel style as they both progress through a similar story.
Seeking somewhere new to live that ticks all their requirements – safe and secure for Emma, survivor of a violent home break-in, away from schools with no reminders of children for Jane who is still coming to terms with the stillbirth of her daughter – is proving difficult for both women. That is until the estate agents loosely mention a house available for a low rental price, pristine, pure, technologically advanced, an architectural masterpiece. Neither woman can resist enquiring further about this piece of heaven, a second chance for them. But this property brings a huge catch.
The owner and architect, a mysteries man with a sad history of his own, has very exacting standards and almost overbearing list of rules that any prospective tenant must agree to abide by. And then, there is the application process. Nothing like the usual, an enormous questionnaire needs to be filled out as part of the process asking all sorts of seemingly benign questions. But what price for the perfect home? But not all is rosey at One Folgate Street, a property with a host of secrets and skeletons in the closets.
J.P. Delaney has created a piece of work in The Girl Before that really grabs you by the collar and drags you in from the start. The alternation between a portion of Emma’s story (the past) and then the following chapter flipping to the corresponding part of Jane’s story (the present) could so easily have fallen down before things started if not done well, confusing the reader. I was so thrilled to discover that Delaney has got this so right – as a reader I felt like I could connect the dots between the two stories. As with many of the psychological thrillers I have read, The Girl Before is dark, with secrets waiting to be uncovered and more twists and turns than a Formula One circuit. I was sure there was going to be some curve balls and was almost ready for it, yet I still didn’t see the ending that came – something that makes this book a real winner for me.