The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. New York: Ballantine Books, 2017. Publication Date January 24, 2017. 329 pages. ****
This psychological thriller alternates between the stories of Emma and Jane. Both women at different times are looking for a place to live and discover an award winning house at a reasonable rent. The fact that the house was designed for the architect's dead wife and that there are very stringent rules for living there does not deter Emma or Jane. Each tenant must fill out an application, which is more like a personality assessment, and agree to the complicated terms of the lease. No books, no clotheslines, no wastepaper baskets, no knickknacks, no coasters or placemats...everything must stay the same minimalistic decor. On the plus side, it is a technology marvel...the shower identifies the person and delivers the water at just the right temperature, there are sensors in every room and it learns who you are and what your routine is. Each woman has a different reason for wanting a safe environment and healing from the trauma that they have experienced.
Told in alternating voices, the story is a compelling thriller. Not quite The Girl On The Train or Behind Closed Doors, however, the suspense and surprise is there. Somewhat predictable in some places and not as intense as the other two, there are enough twists and turns to keep me interested. I like psychological, suspenseful books, but I am feeling as if I am being manipulated by a format that has worked for bestsellers recently. The description and the concept of the house adds a new element to the story as well as the fact that the restrictions necessary to live there does not deter the two women. It is well written and has a cliff hanging element to it, so I recommend it for mystery lovers.
The Girl Before is the first psychological thriller from JP DELANEY, a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. It is being published in thirty-five countries. A film version is being brought to the screen by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.