Pressed upon me by a friend who exclusively reads thrillers, despite being fairly run of the mill for quality in this genre, The Girl Before had an interesting central premise and was a very easy read – so easy I devoured it in one sitting.
Emma is still reeling from a traumatic break-in, while Jane has suffered a devastating loss. Both women are struggling to find their equilibrium as well as somewhere affordable to live that’s not a security nightmare, and One Folgate Street is a secure minimalist’s wet dream that comes at an astonishingly low price, albeit with a raft of conditions attached. The architect of One Folgate Street – a raging asshole with serious control issues – has some unbreakable rules for the tenants of his building: amongst other things they must bring barely anything with them, are denied the right to have any personal effects on display, no books, no rugs, no cushions, nothing on the floors, keep it professional-level clean, eat healthily, sleep well, exercise, have no children or pets, and submit to regular questionnaires about their wellbeing, morality, and so on. Virtually all aspects of their lives are controlled, with the professional cleaners who come in and the house itself (which controls its own environment through sophisticated technology) regularly reporting back to Edward (the asshole architect). Told through the alternating viewpoints of first Emma then Jane, we get to see how living in the house changes them and how they’re both drawn into almost identikit sexual relationships with Edward, who seems to be pulling a Vertigo on each of them following the mysterious deaths of his wife and child on the premises.
I spent most of my time wishing that Emma and Jane and would tell Edward to get fucked and eat a McDonalds in front of him after trashing the place, but sadly I was denied. As someone who could fill three houses with my books alone, the idea of living in such a place could never really appeal to me, but Delaney did at least throw in the cheap rent and some other emotional reasons as to why two otherwise intelligent women would hand almost complete control of their lives to such a colossal douchebag, and while the mystery of the deaths at One Folgate Street isn’t a huge one (I found it fairly easy to pinpoint the culprit, this not being my first thriller and there not being many other characters), I did enjoy the reveal of both women not exactly being reliable narrators.
While not a book I’d obsess over or rave about, The Girl Before was a decent enough way to spend the time while my boyfriend watched football, and will no doubt be adapted into an OK film.