The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Quercus – 7 out of 10
The psychological thriller genre is a pretty crowded field, with examples of the form ranging from best sellers like Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on The Train, to esteemed classics by the likes of Daphne Du Maurier, so The Girl Before has its work cut out.
Jane has found 1 Folgate Street, or maybe it has found her. There are several rules she must stick to, stories and rumours about a tragic past to the house, but the tenancy seems to be too good to miss out on. The book is split into two different sections. The first is told by protagonist Jane and the girl before Emma. As we read on, we learn of the parallels between the lives of the two women, how crime and a police investigation that is not as thorough as it should have been having clouded the waters, as Emma’s death, ruled as misadventure, to begin with, looks more like murder, the deeper Jane digs.
Add in a housing company with ways of keeping an eye on Jane, controlling everything about her life, and the invasion of privacy that this entails shows that although her life is secure, she is also losing any semblance of privacy and autonomy that she might have had.
The plot is both twisted and linear, with Emma’s story running alongside Jane, and although it is not the most complex of plots, there were a few times when too many co-incidences made the story seem implausible.
It is a solid read, with believable characterisation, but some of them are merely cyphers, such as Emma’s too trusting boyfriend Simon, or Edward who forms a less than gallant attachment too both of his tenants. Although elements of the modern world, from technology and modern culture, creep into the book, this is at its most elemental level a story about love, about possession, and about fatal flaws leading to tragedy. Although the ending, at least for Jane seems relatively upbeat, the fact that it ends with a third tenant taking ownership of the perfection of 1 Folgate Street it shows that sometimes when something is too good to be true, it should not really be trusted.