“Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before…”
Finished reading the psychological thriller “The Girl Before” this week. The book was written by JP Delaney, which seems to be a pseudonym for Ugandan-born author and advertising man Tony Strong. Whether more books will see the light under this nom de plume remains to be seen, but this one has reportedly been picked up for filming with Ron Howard in the director’s chair…
The story is told from two separate perspectives – from that of Emma Matthews in chapters subtitled “Then” and from the point of view of Jane Cavendish, whose chapters are subtitled “Now”. Thus we have a story that unfolds through a mixture of past and present narrative from the two women.
What ties them together is that, at the time of each’s testimony, they are tenants of architect Edward Monkford’s austere and hi-tech property at One Folgate Street in London. Despite being in an expensive part of the capital city the rent is more affordable than many properties nearby due to the highly restrictive nature of the tenancy agreement. Not simply a case of you can’t put nails in the wall or similar, there are over two hundred specific restrictions for the home!
Despite this for their individual reasons both women chose to live in the house and abide my all the rules that come with it. As details of each come to light it becomes clear to the reader, and to Jane, that the two women have lots of similarities in their experience with both the house and Edward Monkford. In addition to these three main players there are a number of other significant characters including Emma’s ex-boyfriend Simon, police officers, a psychologist and various work colleagues of both women.
It’s not clear what happened to Emma, the girl before, however and Jane becomes determined to find out. Will she regret that taking that route?…
One of the main themes, for me, in this book was about control. Whether that be the tenants of the house being controlled by their contract and environment, characters controlling each other by overt or subtle means, or simply characters seeking to control their own lives and destinies. This is where I think the novel really works as it makes the reader think about things and perhaps even question their own behaviours in relation to others.
The plot itself is not overly complicated but has enough smoke and mirrors to keep you engrossed. Whether or not the actions of some of the characters at any given time are necessarily plausible is open to debate and the final chapters did feel like a slight let down to me. These seem to be common points for some reviewers, whilst others found the book to be uniformly excellent.
All that said, some of the detail was clearly inspired by the author’s own experiences and overall the book makes for a really good read, despite the above remarks, so I would say it’s definitely worth picking up…