The Girl Before has major faults. It leans hard on one of my least favorite tropes in genre fiction, the 'My, you look strikingly like the previous Mrs. (insert name)!' that has been unavoidable since Rebecca, but should be permanently retired to Manderley. Jane’s backstory, involving a stillbirth, feels similarly cliché. The word 'Girl' is in the title. Most significantly, the mystery’s solution is an implausible mess. Yet for all that, the book has a great deal to recommend it. Delaney has created a genuinely eerie, fascinating setting in One Folgate Street, a house that radiates Monkford’s controlling presence ... Emma, who is somewhat unstable and also self-aware enough to understand how and why, is a fascinating character. The novel’s structure, volleying back and forth as first Emma and then Jane begin to question their improbable luck, is beautifully handled. The pages fly ... Its ending doesn’t erase the pleasure of its first three-quarters and its digressions on police procedure, anorexia, technology and starchitects feel well-researched and solidly founded, never improvised or flimsy. It’s worth a few hours of idle pleasure.
The Girl Before generates a fast pace with frequent cuts between chapters labeled 'Then: Emma' and 'Now: Jane.' And it milks suspense from matching scenes in which Emma and Jane do exactly the same things with Edward, who consciously sets up these parallels. That’s the good news. The downside is the author’s clumsy trickery. No spoilers here, but the novel’s denouement is improbable enough to have flown in from outer space ... The author, clearly writing with commercial success in mind, has used as many other familiar genre ploys as the book can hold ... Edward is very rich in ways that allow the book to indulge in both shelter and merchandise porn ... The book has more trouble bringing its women to life. We know about their past problems, their secrets and their reactions to Edward. But they never really emerge as strong characters ... Mr. Delaney intersperses ethics questions on stand-alone pages throughout the book. A fairly tame sample: 'You have a choice between saving Michelangelo’s statue of David or a starving street child. Which do you choose?' The unnerving ghoulishness of these questions hovers over the book, and the single most ingenious touch is that we’re not provided either woman’s answers.
The 2017 entry in this craze is JP Delaney's highly touted The Girl Before, which plays out like a cross between a Hitchcock movie and an episode of the terrific British techno-thriller series 'Black Mirror' ...story unfolds with back-to-back chapters for most of the novel depicting both Jane in the present and Emma in the past. We get to see each of their individual stories play out in the same setting, and watch in edge-of-the-seat anticipation as Jane begins to make the same mistakes as Emma ...is an electric thriller that will keep readers guessing right up to the finale ... When Emma's story ends, it becomes all about Jane, and you will be reading with trepidation as her story concludes in surprising fashion.
Both of The Girl Before’s unreliable narrators are young women who welcome an interesting bargain: Live in an architectural masterpiece of a home in exchange for abiding by several strange rules ... Those rules deepen the intrigue of this story from beginning to end ...the truths that are gradually revealed show both women are far stronger than they first appear. In fact, inside this strange and beautiful house the whole idea of who’s really 'in control' comes into question again and again ... Like the residences in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King’s The Shining, this house inspires both intrigue and dread due to its architectural grandeur, odd interior spaces, and history of tragic happenings.
A high-tech town house is leased by its control-freak architect to a series of women who look just like his dead wife ... Compliance is monitored by sensors and cameras, by a cleaning service, and by regular inspections. The entire environment is automated... Who in their right mind would want to live here? Emma and Jane, that’s who ... The two report their experiences in alternating chapters ... About a third of the way in, it all seems so obvious. But wait—there's a twist! With hopelessly fake characters and far too many red herrings and reversals, 1 Folgate St. is a house with no load-bearing walls, collapsing under the weight of its own materials.
In the pseudonymous Delaney’s riveting psychological thriller, first Emma Matthews and then Jane Cavendish take up residence at One Folgate Street in London. The house, a masterpiece of minimalist architecture designed by the enigmatic Edward Monkford, is let only to tenants willing to abide by his stringent rules... Both find themselves drawn to the house’s creator and its tragic history ... Writing with precision and grace, Delaney strips away the characters’ secrets until the raw truth of each is revealed.