I have been on a murder mystery kick lately and for some reason have no desire to pick up anything else. I heard about “The Girl Before” by J.P. Delaney from one of my favorite podcasts All the Books. The hosts found it hilarious that the book was about a “sadistic architect” who takes control of a girl living in a house he built. They joked about it so much I decided to give it a read.
Each chapter of the book jumps between the accounts of Emma (the girl before?) and Jane (the girl now). I thought this would get confusing at first but its not too hard to distinguish the two. Both girls are “damaged” in some way when they begin living in the house at One Folgate Streeet and as the book progresses each of their pasts is unraveled. Emma recently experienced a burglary at her home that left her scared and Jane recently lost a child. Unfortunately for Emma, she dies while living at One Folgate Street and Jane kind of makes it her mission to figure out what happened. Both girls also fall into a passionate relationship with the (sadistic?) architect of the house.
Let’s start with some things I like about the book. There were definitely a few surprises and unexpected revelations I had while reading. I won’t spoil the book here but I think Emma’s side of the story was definitely where the most twists occurred. Delany’s writing is easy to read and not annoying. The twists that were there were good.……that was a short paragraph.
Ok, here’s the negatives. I wanted more from the plot. All the reviews talk about constant twists and turns that will throw the reader for a loop but I didn’t see them. For the most part I found the plot to be fairly predictable except for the few surprises mentioned above. I never fully bought in to the conceit of the book. In order to move into One Fulgate Street, Emma and Jane had to fill out an outrageously long application that asked them super personal questions. And then the house itself had over 200 rules including that you aren’t allowed to bring hardly anything with you, no pets, you can’t leave anything on the floor, etc. I just don’t think that anyone would be interested in a house like that in real life. At least not normal, down to earth people like the 2 main characters. If I was filling out the application I’d be like “this is creepy I’m not doing this” and once I heard the rules for the house I’d be like “I can’t even bring my books? Nope goodbye!” So since I didn’t find the plot believable, it was hard to get into the book. It took me forever to read this book because I never wanted to pick it back up. In my opinion, it wasn’t the psychological thriller that was promised.
Another aspect of the book I did not enjoy was the graphic descriptions of sex and rape. There was just so much of it and I wasn’t expecting that. Emma’s story especially is extremely sexual and I just didn’t enjoy reading it. Lastly, I was frustrated by the resolution at the end of the book. I felt there was a lot left unanswered about the architect and his part in the stories of Emma and Jane. The ending just wasn’t satisfying enough for me.
Overall I gave this book 3 out of 5 starts and that is probably too high. It wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I would probably recommend it to someone looking for a mystery if it weren’t for all the sex. But hey it was on the NYT Best Sellers list for a good while so what do I know. Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts!