The Girl Before by JP Delaney is not my typical feel good read, in fact it is anything but!
Initially after reading the summary of this advanced reader copy and agreeing to preview the book, I expected I’d be getting a historical novel but there was a mix up. Once I received the book and read the back jacket it was quite clear The Girl Before was not what I signed up for. However it looked intriguing: a psychological thriller, something I do enjoy now and then.
Admittedly, as I began reading I got sucked into the short chapters alternating between Emma and Jane. What I wasn’t prepared for was the graphic sex scenes. At one point I nearly gave up, but I read on Amazon that the book is soon to be a movie produced by Ron Howard.
I’d just seen an old re-run of The Andy Griffith Show and had lingering fond memories of the good old days. I rationalized Opie, Ron Howard’s sweet innocent character, wouldn’t be involved in anything too scandalous.
Well I’ll let you be the judge of that!
Emma and Jane have multiple things in common: each are looking for a fresh start, both women are in a vulnerable state, neither of them can afford the flat known as One Folgate Street, and both women have a similar look, one that attracts strange men. Lastly, and most disturbingly, Emma and Jane don’t seem fazed by the fact that the flat they want to rent has a frightening history.
First we meet Emma and her boyfriend Simon as they are filling out an elaborate questionnaire to meet the bizarre qualifications to become renters. Emma is much more engaged than Simon who more or less just goes along. Emma ends her relationship with Simon shortly after the couple moves into One Folgate Street. Emma moves right into a sizzling relationship with One Folgate Street’s owner Edward. The relationship seems a stretch given Emma’s lack of tidiness, something Edward insists upon, but she manages to compromise as she becomes obsessed with her new lover.
Next we are introduced to Jane who takes possession of One Folgate Street after Emma’s mysterious death. Jane must comply as well with the restrictive guidelines required to live in One Folgate and she too ends up in a romantic relationship with Edward. Like Emma, at her own expense.
Edward is a purist, a perfectionist, a minimalist, and even though I didn’t look up the definition of a sociopath in the dictionary, I imagined Edward to fit the mold. Not surprisingly he approaches Jane in the same manner he did Emma.
One Folgate Street is a secure and ultra-modern flat giving both women peace of mind. The house is operated remotely by technology. For example, if one breaks the ‘rules’ the shower will not turn on or turn cold notifying the resident that they have broken a rule. Edward, as I mentioned, has idiosyncrasies about neatness. It is just one of the absolutes that tenants are expected to strictly adhere to.