The Girl Before

28016509

by J.P. Delaney
Published January 24th 2017 by Ballantine Books
Mystery/Thriller
4 Stars

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

28016509The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Emma
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.
Jane
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.

Can the ‘Girl’ title be done already? I get it, it is bound to get more readers if the title can be compared to Gone Girl or the Girl on the Train but I just need it to be done. We have people mistakenly expecting the same things when they go into such books only to be disappointed. The title could have easily been ‘The One Before’ or something but it just had to have ‘Girl’ in there. That’s beside the point here.

As much as the title put me off, the blurb intrigued me. I rarely read blurbs before reading a book, I mostly look at the ratings, cover, genre and title. What made me read this one was the fact I kept on seeing it on bookstagram in the last half of 2016 and so it piqued my interest. Curiosity got the better of me on this one but I went in with low expectations and I am glad I did. It made it easier for me to enjoy the story despite the many WTF moments I had throughout the book.

The story focuses on two main characters Emma from the past and Jane in the present. But the start in the book is this house that ties them together, One Folgate Street. It’s not an ordinary house with its minimalistic nature in a world far removed from minimalism. It was designed by an equally unusual techno-architect Edward Monkton for his family but after their death he chose to rent it out. The thing is, he has a set of conditions (200) that would drive any normal person insane and the decision for anyone to live there comes from the architect/owner. There is an application form to be filled and a face to face interview with him before he approves any tenant because the house needs to be lived in by a person who can truly handle it.

“I realize something. I haven’t had a single flashback or panic attack since I stepped inside the house. It’s so cut off from the outside world, so cocooned, I feel utterly safe. A line from my favorite movie floats into my head. ‘The quietness and the proud look of it. Nothing very bad could happen to you there’.”

Emma and Jane both fulfill whatever Edward (the architect) is looking for in tenants. But it’s clear that they are both disturbed individuals running from something in their lives. Whatever they are running from is what has pushed them to admire the minimalistic nature of One Folgate Street. Emma’s tragedy makes her fall in love with the house even though her boyfriend is not really keen on it but he agrees because he feels horrible for her. They lived together in the house by the way.

When Jane moves in, she finds out Emma died in that house but her boyfriend, Simon believes she was murdered. This makes Jane start digging into Emma’s past so that she could find out if she was really killed or it was just an accident as it was initially ruled out. She finds out there are so many things she shared with the dead girl which makes her question everything. She uncovers things that she wishes she never did as they push her to do crazy things in search for the truth.

“He was heartbroken,” I say.
“Heartbroken,” he repeats. “Of course. That’s the great myth Edward Monkford’s spun around himself, isn’t it? The tormented genius who lost the love of his life and became an arch-minimalist as a result.”
“You don’t think that’s right?”
“I know it isn’t.”

The writing kept me turning the pages. It almost felt like the writing was set to be as sparse as the house was, minimal. I was really into the story to be honest even though I have seen so many bad reviews now. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues with the story. I could talk about them but I don’t want to ruin the story for you but read on if you have already read the book.

What the hell was up with the whole resemblance story? It really pissed me off because it felt like a cheap plot to point to Edward as the killer. I mean, come on? It was not necessary and didn’t psychologically make sense in my opinion. And that ending was so disappointing! How? How did they let that ding pass? It could have tied up the story so much better if the ending didn’t feel misplaced. I’m not even talking about the last chapter. The whole conclusion of Jane and Emma’s story just felt like words thrown together. The author might have had an idea of what he wanted to portray but he just didn’t have the time to completely paint the picture.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. It was very readable an entertaining.

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