The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

The Girl Before


The Girl Before
by J.P. Delaney

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

420 Pages

Published by Quercus (4th April 2017)

Purchase from | Booktopia | Book Depository | Fishpond AU* | Dymocks | QBD | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK |

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐

Trigger Warnings: Stillborn, Child Death, Mention of rape, Loss of a child.

Imagine applying for a rental property and being given a survey that is 200 questions long. Your answers to these questions will dictate whether your application is successful. If you are successful, there’s a list of rules to follow in order to reside in the premises, among those is no pets, no kids, no clutter, no throw pillows, no decorations and no curtains, among many other things. To want to live there would be crazy, right? Except for Emma, it wasn’t. After experiencing a break-in and struggling to cope afterwards, Emma and her partner decide to move and give themselves a new start. That’s when they’re shown 1 Folgate Street. Emma is smitten as soon as she sees it, but partner Simon isn’t so sure. When they’re successful, they move in and things are looking up, this could be the change they were looking for and who knows, it might change their entire lives…though not necessarily for the better.
Enter Jane, a single woman who is trying to pick up the pieces of her life after experiencing a personal tragedy. 1 Folgate Street is perfect for her, and it could be just the thing to help her turn her life around. When Jane learns of the death of the previous tenant, a woman similar in age and looks to herself, she can’t help but dig further into the past and in doing so sets herself down the same path as the girl before. Will Jane discover the truth of what happened before the same fate befalls her?

I was so intrigued by this book when I first read the blurb. I’ve got a soft spot for psychological thrillers and this one sounded so intriguing. With such a unique backdrop of a house that has so many rules and regulations just to live in it is unique to me, so I figured this would be a great read. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it overly that much, and I did consider DNFing it a few times, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because 1. I wanted an answer to the whodunit? question the story puts forth, and 2. I bought it in paperback, and I just can’t fathom DNFing a physical book, especially when I purchased it with a gift card. So I pushed through, and I will say that the story did get a little bit better towards the end, but overall I just did not really like this book. It turned out so different to what I thought it would be, and I’m not sure if that’s my fault for expecting something in particular, or whether some parts of the story should have been included in the blurb to give a fuller picture.

I’ll start with the story. It’s told through alternating chapters, one from Emma in the past and leading up to the events that transpire; and the other is told from Jane’s perspective in present day. I like dual POVs like this, especially when they’re told in different timelines, I feel like it really gives the story a fuller effect and more dimension. It allows us to get a look at things from different perspectives and I really enjoy it. So that was great. While there is a mystery here, obviously about Emma’s death which is alluded to in the blurb of the book, at times it felt like it almost took a back seat to the bizarre relationships – in both timelines – with the architect of 1 Folgate Street. A strange, aloof man who has a slight BDSM thing going on, and a serious need to control. There was more focus put on these relationships and interactions than I would have liked. I’ve got nothing against kinks or spice, I love me some smut, but these relationships were just not engrossing at all, and I felt…I can’t even explain it…I wasn’t disgusted by the relationships but I was like “oookkaayyy, could have done without this.” It’s so hard to put into words how unenjoyable these character relationships were, and I don’t know if this was the intent of the author or not. Overall, the mystery was well written and I didn’t have it picked until the reveal pretty much happened, so that’s why my rating isn’t lower.

The characters. I liked Emma and Jane, and I even like Emma’s partner in some parts of the story, I absolutely abhorred the architect of the house. He made my skin crawl and not in a “this book is so good the character is so well written” way, more in a “why on Earth would you create this character?” I’m not sure if this means Delaney is really skilled at their character creation and development, or whether it makes me question their ability to write a good character. If the intent was to make a character that is so overbearing and unlikeable in absolutely every single way, and that they have no redeeming qualities, then Delaney knocked it out of the park. I just…I can’t even explain my hatred of this character…I’ve had the same weird facial expression on my face since I started this review a “what have I just witnessed and did that actually happen?” look. You know the one. The relationships were awful. There was not one, but TWO, scenes in which the architect takes the female to his favourite Japanese restaurant where they serve live seafood, I don’t mean you pick it out of a tank and then they kill it and cook it up, I mean, that fish is coming out to you on the plate still struggling to breathe; the baby squid in your soup are still alive as they wriggle their way past your tongue into your stomach – live seafood. And I just found it so freaking unnecessary? What was the point in including such a bizarre, and in my opinion, awful thing in your story? What did it add? I feel like it was used for shock value more than anything, maybe to demonstrate how messed up the architect was? I dunno, it’s floored me and I don’t get it and I hope I never read anything about it again. There’s also an unnecessary addition of one of the women finding a kitten, which ends up dead. Again, why? It didn’t add anything to the story at all and we never found out who actually did it. I also feel like there was no real character growth for any of the characters in this story and it all just felt so unnecessary (how many times can I use that word in one review?). And the interaction that involved the character-that-shouldn’t-exist saying (—> go to goodreads review if you want to read the spoiler –>)(view spoiler)

All in all, this was a completely unenjoyable read that I cannot recommend to anyone. I hated the relationship dynamics and didn’t understand the point of them, the mystery was decent and I didn’t guess the culprit, so that’s a plus. I actually dropped my rating down after writing this review because I was able to reflect on how much I didn’t like this book. I wouldn’t even put it in the psychological thriller category if I’m honest. And I’m sorry but the love interest being called “daddy” just really puts me off. I just, I don’t recommend this book to anyone, and I’m probably going to regret even giving it two stars. I never tear books apart, and I do feel kind of bad that I’ve been so blunt and negative about this story, but I just can’t, save yourself the headache and read something else.

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