Everything that is yours, was once hers . . .
Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?
Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.
As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.
This is a book I've been looking forward to reading since I heard about it. Firstly, because it sounded intriguing. Secondly, because I love a good thriller. And lastly, because I'm a sucker for thrillers with the word Girl in the title.
One Folgate Street is a house like no other. Clutter is forbidden. There are no light switches, bookshelves, or door handles. Even the staircase doesn't have handrails. It's all straight lines, efficient, clean and clear surfaces, plus high-tech everything.
To rent this minimalist's dream means filling out a very thorough, bizarre questionnaire. It also means agreeing to an insane amount of rules about living conditions, and meeting the eccentric architect. Not to mention letting him into your life.
Emma and Jane are two very different women with similar physical attributes, and they both live in this house at different times. But both of them will end up facing similar creepy and very dangerous circumstances...
Wow. This book is intoxicating. As soon as I started reading, I didn't want to put it down.
Told in the alternating POVs of Then and Now, the separate lives of Emma and Jane unfold as they each lose themselves to a house that might help minimize material possessions, but does nothing for mind clutter. In fact, it makes it worse. Not to mention the dangerous sensual games they play, and what they lead to. I also thought that peppering the book with some of the bizarre questionnaire questions was clever.
The characters in this story are all amazing in their own messed-up way. Everyone has issues of their own. They are flawed people with dark problems, quirks and pasts filled with tragedy, sadness, manipulation and obsession. The amount of toxicity and fixations between these people is huge. It's so easy to love and hate them at the same time. The house itself is also a character. Sometimes the minimalist surroundings are the perfect living space and make even the reader comfortable. Other times it becomes a cold, unreliable claustrophobic nightmare that seems to turn against the resident.
I also liked how the story explores the varying degrees of control. Ranging from the need to control others, your environment, their surroundings, habits and especially oneself. Not to mention how different people react when someone tries to force control on them. It all adds to the tense atmosphere of this very original and interesting story.
The Girl Before is an addictive, fast paced, page-turner that keeps the psychological tension going from start to finish. It's twisted. It's screwed up. It's sensual. It's sad. And sometimes, it's downright creepy. And the mystery at the heart of the story is so well written that it kept me guessing to the very end. Even when I thought I knew exactly what was going on, it spun everything around and caught me by surprise.
Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book. It might only be the beginning of the year, but I agree, this is definitely going to make many Best Of 2017 lists.
The Girl Before, February 2017, ISBN 9781786480286, Quercus