By Ekta R. Garg
January 25, 2017
Rated: Bypass it
A woman discovers that the previous tenant of her home died a tragic death, and her interactions with the architect/landlord of the house convinces her something odd happened before she moved in. The more she finds out, the more she realizes she may be in danger herself. Author JP Delaney shares the story of the two women and the man who links them in the fast paced but ultimately disappointing novel The Girl Before.
Emma wants to move out of her London flat as soon as possible. After surviving a break-in at her current home, she just can’t face staying there any longer than necessary. When the realtor shows Emma and her boyfriend the home at One Folgate Street, Emma feels the home calling to her.
The clean lines and austere décor only become more intriguing when she and her boyfriend receive the tenant application that has more than 200 questions. The rules for the home confound Emma—no trash cans or books; no shampoo left out after a shower—but they also make her curious. Her boyfriend doesn’t understand the curiosity aspect of the house, however, and eventually the two break up. After a whirlwind relationship with Edward Monkford, the architect-cum-landlord, Emma dies under tragic but unsettling circumstances.
After delivering a stillborn infant, Jane wants to get away from everything in her life that reminds her of her baby girl. She feels the same draw to One Folgate Street that Emma did, and Jane takes the questions on the application as a challenge. Most never make it past that first application, but Jane does and she has the opportunity to meet Edward in his office before the final decision.
Jane finds herself attracted to him, and when her application to live at One Folgate Street is approved she realizes the attraction must have been mutual. Her guess is correct. One day Edward approaches Jane for what he calls an unfettered relationship. No strings attached; no commitments. They simply stay together until one of them decides the situation no longer makes sense.
Despite her initial hesitation, Jane agrees. As she spends more time with Edward, however, she realizes that some of his actions must be motivated by his relationship with Emma. Jane begins to question whether Emma’s death really was an accident. She’s afraid to find out, because she doesn’t want to know whether she’ll be next.
Author JP Delaney gives readers a book that moves at a breakneck pace. Telling the story in chapters that alternate between Emma and Jane’s points of view, Delaney pushes the story forward in an engaging effort. Readers won’t want to stop moving through the novel until they find out all of Emma’s secrets and how Jane handles the fallout from them.
Unfortunately, Delaney doesn’t fulfill the promises he makes in the first handful of chapters of the book. Edward Monkford’s entrance and character arc suggest someone worthy of Fifty Shades of Grey; in the end his entire outlook falls flat. Midway through the book, one of the two main women completely flips her entire profile. Delaney may have wanted to create an unreliable narrator similar to Gone Girl, but the transition isn’t nearly as smooth.
Ultimately Delaney builds the entire story up and then lets it fall off a cliff. Instead of making a terrific smash, it flutters to the ground in a heap of feathers. The end is just as disappointing as the beginning is fascinating.
I recommend readers Bypass The Girl Before.