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THE GIRL BEFORE BY J.P. DELANY

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PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
REVIEW BY PENNY NOM

Take two women, both recently traumatised by events in their lives, and two men, both obsessives in their own different ways and put them in a house that seems to have a life of its own. Sprinkle them with lies, paranoia and a murder mystery or two, et voilà! You have The Girl Before.

The story is told from the perspectives of Emma and Jane, both searching the highly competitive and expensive London rental market for somewhere to live.  The chapters alternate between the story of Emma (the ‘girl before’) and Jane (the girl after, so to speak).

In order to be considered as a tenant for One Folgate Street – an extraordinary house designed by the charismatic and handsome Edward Monkford – both women complete a detailed and intrusive questionnaire, which begins innocuously enough: “Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life”. But it descends to a much more uncomfortable level: “You have a choice between saving Michelangelo’s statue of David or a starving street child. Which do you choose?”

Both women are successful applicants, with Jane moving in subsequent to Emma. As their stories unfold and the tension mounts, we are shown several parallels in their lives.

It’s always difficult to review a mystery without giving too much away, so I shall just say that all the main characters, with the exception of one, are written in such a way that you will question the honesty and mental stability of each of them at various times… I will also say at least one of them turns out to be a killer! (Hold the front page!)

I would recommend this book, which is definitely an adult read with its graphic sex scenes and unpleasant characters. I would however like to add a word of warning for those who may have lost a child, as one of the characters has recently experienced a stillbirth. Both the birth and her feelings about this are described honestly and aren’t sugar-coated, and if you don’t want to stir up your own memories and emotions you may wish to give this book a miss.  Notwithstanding that, The Girl Before is a gripping read that will keep you guessing.

Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.