The Girl Before by JP Delaney (2017)

In this brand new thriller, JP Delaney presents us with a story of trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, lies, and — ultimately — murder. Enlivening all of these familiar story elements is the unique plot twist which makes the location of the story — One Folgate Street, London– the main character of the story.

One Folgate Street is an architectural icon, as famous as the brilliant, eccentric architect Edward Monkford, who designed it. Created to be a house of the future, it is simultaneously a work of art and a technological marvel: state-of-the-art security, entirely automated, responsive to the external environment as well as its inhabitants. The cost to those interested in renting the house is not financial, but rather personal. In order to be chosen to live there, renters must undergo a rigorous screening, agree to live by intensely restrictive rules, and allow the architect and his firm to collect constant data on their day-to-day movements.

Enter Emma, identified as the story’s “then” narrator and Jane, the “now” narrator. Then: Emma moves into the house with her boyfriend after a break-in at their old flat. Emma is drawn to the remote location, high-end security, and hopes that the austerity of the house (no color, no personal items, no art) will help her pull her life back together after being attacked. Now: Jane moves in after a heart-breaking loss, hoping a simple, regimented life will allow her to create the mental space she needs to heal.

Soon both Emma and Jane find that the house, and its designer Edward, will control far more than their decor. The house will begin to dictate how they sleep, eat, work, and make love. At first, the freedom from choice and the sensation of being cared for by the house make it a source of comfort. But soon, information about the house, its past residents, and the uncomfortably close relationship Edward has to the property leads both women to question whether Folgate Street is as safe as it seems.

The story moves back and forth, twisting and turning, with the characters revealing themselves a bit more with each chapter; and with those revelations growing more and more shocking as the book unfolds.

It should be noted that I truly enjoyed the book and found the story exciting and the plot ingenious. That said, it must be noted that The Girl Before feels heavily influenced by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Paula Hawkins Girl on The Train, with a tiny hint of Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.” While the story still is compelling and quite readable, the similarities to other works did distract a bit from this thriller’s overall uniqueness. That said, I am sure it will be a best-seller and turned into a movie with Reese Witherspoon in no time at all.


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