Monday, April 3, 2017

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

You've finally found the perfect rental. It's a beautiful home in a lovely area and, best of all, the fees are far below what you would expect for a home like this. The catch is that the architect is unbelievably picky about who is allowed to live there. The application consists of pages and pages of questions that seem to have nothing to do with renting a property; questions like these:

You are involved in a traffic accident that you know is your fault. The other driver is confused and seems to think she caused the crash. Do you tell the police it was her fault or yours?

You have a choice between saving Michelangelo's statue of David or a starving street child. Which do you choose?

I have no time for people who don't strive to better themselves. Agree or disagree?

In addition to all the strange questions, all applicants are required to attend an interview and to agree to an extensive list of very strict rules, any of which if broken constitute immediate eviction. Would it be worth it? The Girl Before by JP Delaney follows two women, Emma in the past and Jane in the present, who have decided that it is worth it and even look forward to how living in this strange home may change, and hopefully improve, their lives. It all seems wonderful until each of the women discovers a mystery related to the house. The architect is his own mystery and neither of the women has any reluctance discovering his strange secrets. 

I felt like this book was very well done. While written in alternating chapters, one from Emma in the past, one from Jane in the present, never does the author repeat herself. Separate bits of information are shared through each of the women, but the reader is aware that both characters have uncovered the same information. The author also inserts just enough strange information that the reader knows it must be a clue, increasing the suspense.

There have been plenty of comparisons to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. Sure it has the word "Girl" in the title and it is a mystery featuring women, but you can read my previous rant about calling every new book "the next whatever" in my review of The Girl on the Train. No need to repeat it here. The point I'm making is that if you liked those books, sure, you'll probably like this one, too, but can't we just let books stand on their own?

This book really had me going; I was talking out loud to my Kindle and even had trouble sitting still reading it a few times. The characters are all flawed in some way, and some much more than others. I could occasionally be heard shouting, "Why?! Why would you do that?!", perhaps even by the neighbors. This book was exciting and gripping and a lot of fun to read. One caution that I will offer: there are some scenes that are a bit graphic, not unlike Gone Girl, so take that into consideration if that's something that bothers you. I always hate to recommend a book without mentioning that when it applies.

I think this would make a fantastic book club pick. Plenty of conversation starters and then you and your friends can all freak out together.

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