If Wikipedia can be believed The Girl Before by JP Delaney, is not – in fact – written by JP Delaney as it’s a pseudonym. Googling informs me Delaney is actually Tony Strong, a Ugandan-born UK author, but I really can’t be arsed putting the pieces together and confirming that’s the case. (And yes, my dedication to my craft surprises even me!)
Less surprisingly though, Google also tells me this book is being brought to the screen by director Ron Howard.
by J.P. Delaney
Published by Hachette Australia, Quercus
on January 25th 2017
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules.
After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.
As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.
The story unfolds in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Emma and Jane – in their respective timelines. We follow both as they apply to become tenants of One Folgate Street… complete with its imposing and over-the-top contract of dos and don’ts.
The characters are similar, but very different and one of the things I enjoyed most about this book is the way in which Delaney allows us to have multiple allegiances for much of the novel.
And we very quickly learn… the sexy, reclusive, exacting and renowned minimalist architect Edward Monkford (also their landlord) is working from the same playbook with both women. Several years apart.
I must admit I felt frustrated that it seemed so obvious. “Surely it can’t be THAT!” I groaned inwardly as the control freak and Christian Grey-wannabe gives both women the same ‘We need this relationship casual’ speech, hands over a pearl choker (to each) and moves in after a short time.
And why they would agree to have their every action monitored: Fitbit-gone-mad style, was beyond me. But then again… I like chocolate and wine and occasionally lie to my doctor. 🙂
Of course, we learn pretty quickly that Emma died in the house; under suspicious circumstances. And when Jane learns this (and the fact Edward’s wife and child died on site during the build) she finds herself picking apart Emma’s complex life and trying to understand her relationship with Edward.
Thankfully Delaney (eventually) takes the novel somewhere unexpected and we’re forced to consider whether we know both women as well as we think. And whether we’ve judged Edward fairly. Or if he is indeed someone who preys on fragile women… waiting until he finds the
tenant woman he’s looking for.
Until our characters surprise us I thought this novel was going to be an enjoyable but predictable psychological thriller. Instead, we’re treated to some unexpected twists and turns as the plot draws to its conclusion.
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the very end of the novel, but again – it was something different – so I suspect the book, its characters and their circumstances will prey on my mind for some time. And… it will translate very well onto the screen.
The Girl Before by JP Delaney is published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.