The Blurb On The Back:
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 …
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
A tragic miscarriage led to Jane giving up a well-paid job in the city and the flat that went with it but the salary she earns working for a charity makes it almost impossible to find anywhere in London. Then she discovers One Folgate Street, a one-bedroom house built by the famed minimalist architect Edward Monkford. Although the rent is incredibly cheap, Monkford is notoriously picky about who he lets to (requiring applicants to go through a vigorous application process that includes psychometric testing) and residents have to comply with an unforgiving range of conditions after they move in. Jane, though, has fallen in love with the place and is physically attracted to Monkford himself.
But every home has its secrets and when she meets Simon laying flowers outside the front door, she learns that he lived there with his girlfriend Emma who died in what some say was a tragic accident, but which Simon believes was murder. And coincidentally, she looked a lot like Jane …
J. P. Delaney (a pseudonym for Tony Strong) has written a twisting psychological thriller and although Monkford has FIFTY SHADES OF GREY vibes and the reveal is signalled too early, the combination of unreliable narrators, good red herrings and a denouement that (for the most part) pays off made this a gripping read. The best thing about the book is the dual narrative between Jane and Emma as they slowly reveal their experience in the house and with the enigmatic Monkford. Each has a believable voice (Jane’s sections are particularly strong where she experiences and considers her miscarriage) and I really enjoyed the slow reveal of their respective lies as it adds depth to the storyline and kept me gripped. Monkford is an underdrawn character with a creepy Christian Grey vibe and I questioned what Emma and Jane saw in him beyond his physical attractiveness because his behaviour is so unpleasant at times but I did like the repetition in his behaviour and Delaney is clever in the way he draws this out. Also good is the way that the house develops as a character in its own right (scenes where it turns on the narrators are genuinely creepy) and although I figured out the main twist early on in the story, the writing is such that it held my attention to the end and I would definitely read Strong’s other books.
THE GIRL BEFORE will be released in the United Kingdom on 26th January 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.