The Girl Before

by JP Delaney
The Girl Before
by JP Delaney

In our obsession with houses, finding the perfect property in a market which increasingly seems to put our hopes and dreams further out of reach, this is a clever and intriguing premise.

Jane is looking for a new home to mark a new episode in her life. She is offered the chance to live in a beautiful minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect. The only catch is that she has to live her life in accordance with unusual and exacting rules specified by the architect.

She moves in, intrigued to see the impact of the rules on her life, but also bewitched by the architect.

Soon, though, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there. As more similarities between their lives are unearthed, Jane begins to wonder if her life will mirror those of Emma.

We flit back and forth from the experiences of both girls, and this sometimes felt a bit clunky. There were elements of the book that made me feel uncomfortable and rather voyeuristic - a bit Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I've read or seen it!)? And the twists and turns towards the end of the book came rather thick and fast, but there was never a sufficient sense of menace for me to feel on edge - more a case of a mildly curious 'what's going to happen next?'

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the book and  couldn't stop turning the pages. It was a great idea which I think could have been developed further in its own right - technology is intruding further and further into our domestic situations and if we can turn on lights and heating from a distance, with fridges able to supply shopping lists etc, then there is lots of scope for hacking and the manipulation by a malevolent force/individual of the place where we should be safest.

Review date: November 2019