The Girl Before by JP Delaney; 2017
Well. I’ll admit I’ve disappeared from this space for a while because I’ve been eyes deep in thrillers. Yesterday I spent an ideal Saturday night sipping champagne and finishing The Girl Before, which I picked up at an airport last week while traveling.
Not unlike the Disney Channel original movie classic Smart House (#TBT), The Girl Before centers around a house that is probably too smart for its unsuspecting occupants. One Folgate Street is an architectural masterpiece; a completely minimalist space of smooth stone and windows, designed by the enigmatic architect Edward Monkford. Edward rents out the house for a steal under the condition that the occupants of the house are completely vetted first. AKA a complete psych evaluation which starts with the question: “Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.”
Then: Enter Emma, who is reeling from a traumatic break-in and is looking for a new place to live that offers better safety. One Folgate offers complete safety – it recognizes and gets to know its occupant, and everything can be controlled by a smart phone app (RED FLAG am I right?). The catch is that Edward retains full control of what happens in the house: no books, no pets, no photos, etc; the paperwork Emma signs to live in the house contains hundreds of rules. The space is intended to transform it’s occupant.
Now: Jane decides to move into One Folgate Street after a personal tragedy. Not long after moving in, however, she discovers that something terrible happened to the woman who lived in the house before her, who bears a remarkably similar likeness to Jane in appearance and age. But as Jane tries to discover what really happened at One Folgate Street, she inadvertently begins making the same choices and getting involved with people with the girl who lived there before her.
The book is told in alternating perspectives from Jane and Emma, and is certainly thrilling enough. But this ultimately spirals into a strange cross of Fifty Shades of Grey and Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train/other books with girl in the title. Fun to read? Certainly. But it didn’t blow me away and the twist was lackluster. And, yes, not everything is explained to satisfaction in the end. Save this one for a plane ride.