Thursday 2 February 2017

Review ~ The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Book Description:

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

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

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.

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.

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Our Review:

Reviewed by Donna ~ 3.5 stars
***ARC received for an honest review***

“Love is always one-sided…”

So, another thriller crossed my kindle this week and this time it was the turn of JP Delaney. This is a pseudonym for an author who has already published fiction under another name and you could tell that this wasn’t their first rodeo so to speak.

The Girl Before is a psychological thriller that will have you guessing from the get go as the present and the past go on an eerily similar journey. This story is told in two point of views, Emma (The Girl Before) and Jane the present.

Emma took up residency at One Folgate Street after an aggravated burglary left her with a crippling fear of living in her old house. The new house had to be high security to give her that “safe” feeling and One Folgate Street was the only property that fitted the bill.

One Folgate Street was the brainchild of top architect, Edward Monkford and was as high spec as they came and extremely minimalist. Only tenants willing to go through an intense veto process and adhere to some two hundred rules could live there and that meant giving up everything that you didn’t need, living with the bare necessities and living clean and tidy. The house had a brain as it were and monitored the residents, adapting to their day to day routines, their preferences and their dislikes. It was a social experiment of sorts and one that the residents knew they were a part of, hence the affordable rent for an otherwise unobtainable property.

“You can make your surroundings as polished and empty as you like. But it doesn’t really matter if you’re still messed up inside.”

Jane is the current resident of One Folgate Street and is currently coming to terms with losing a child and One Folgate Street is her clean break and fresh start. Jane fell in love with the property and is immediately taken by its creator but it is not long before the walls begin to bleed their secrets. Once Jane becomes aware of the tragic past of the property she takes it upon herself to investigate…with startling revelations. Will the present mimic the past?

“There was a time when One Folgate Street seemed like a calm, serene haven. Now it doesn’t. It feels claustrophobic and aggressive. Like the house is angry with me.”

I will say that because Emma and Jane’s stories were so startling similar at times, it did become hard to keep track of whose point of view I was currently reading. I found myself flipping back to the beginning of chapters when the characters began to blur. I did notice that Emma’s point of view did not contain any speech marks, if this was a way of differentiating between the two it didn’t work for me, it only made reading those chapters a tad confusing. It may be that there was a different method behind this style of writing but it wasn’t immediately apparent.

“Never apologize for someone you love, he says quietly. It makes you look like a prick.”

This was an addictive read though, one that I couldn’t put down. JP Delaney cleverly built this story, slowly peeling back his characters like the layers of an onion. As each layer is removed the character’s secrets became fewer, the truth more apparent and I was anxiously waiting to reach the centre. With each chapter, the more engrossed I became and while the beginning is a little slow to get going, it soon becomes apparent that the pacing was deliberate in its lure to totally submerse you in Emma and Jane’s story. This was a clever manipulation of the mind as your brain screams at you to believe one thing, yet your subconscious tells you another. Do you rule with your heart, head or your gut instinct?

I did have a few issues with The Girl Before, hence the rating, but as psychological thrillers went this certainly held my attention from the start and left me with that constant fear of woe throughout.   I did feel that the ending was rushed and did not feel any particular closure with Edward and Jane and while I could see where the author wanted to go at the end, its delivery let it down.

While this book does stretch your imagination at times, I am sure that someone, somewhere has already invented a house like this, whether I would want to be a part of it…hell no and I did find myself struggling to come to terms with the residents willing participation. Sometimes though the allure of grandeur knocks all common sense from people and picking on an already vulnerable person was probably the kick starter to garner anyone’s interest. However, it was gripping, it had my mind running a mile a minute, even taking notes as I tried to decipher fact from fiction, truth from lies and throw those red herrings overboard. I am usually wrong, I would be a crap detective but I did get this one right.

“I built something as simple as a mausoleum because that was how I felt at the time. But then I realised that in my madness I’d inadvertently created something extraordinary. A house that would demand a sacrifice from anyone who lived there, but which would repay that sacrifice a thousand-fold. There are some it destroys… But some it makes stronger.”

This is soon to become a film, I can see the allure and personally cannot wait to see how this is depicted on the big screen.

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