Why we love it: JP Delaney delivers a disturbing and utterly addictive psychological thriller about the price of perfection and the enduring power of obsession.
After a failed burglary attempt left her shaken, Emma is determined to move out of the apartment she shares with her boyfriend Simon to feel safe again. After none of the properties they’ve seen quite meet her requirements, the real estate agent shows them the distinctive and unusual house at One Folgate Street. Spellbound by the beautiful apartment with its minimalistic style, impressive architectural design and intuitive technological features, Emma and Simon immediately apply. Although there’s a long and incredibly specific list of restrictions and rules to living in such a house, they know they have to at least try to make this incredible property their home.
After an interview with the gorgeous and enigmatic architect Edward, the couple are approved and prepare to move in. Emma feels like One Folgate Street is the perfect place to start fresh, and to finally let go of the past. Yet not long after they’ve moved in, Emma and Simon’s relationship starts to come apart at the seams – and the house, and Edward, start to play a larger role in their lives than they could have expected.
While Emma’s story is unfolding in the past, we also fast-forward a few years and meet Jane in the present day. After the heartbreaking death of her unborn baby, Jane decides she can’t live in the apartment that was meant to be their home and stumbles across the rental opportunity of a lifetime. When her real estate agent shows her the sleek and starkly designed house at One Folgate Street, Jane is immediately smitten, and not put off by the stringent rental conditions that means very few people have ever actually lived in the property. After moving in, Jane discovers that the previous tenant – Emma – was mysteriously found dead, and to make matters worse, Emma’s appearance is quite similar to her own. Intrigued, Jane begins to investigate, as she too finds her life entangled with Edward, and more secrets come to light, Jane starts to fear that she may meet the same fate as the girl before her…
Emma’s story in the past and Jane’s in the present are entwined throughout, so both mirror each other beautifully (and terrifyingly). When Jane discovers something new in the modern day, you then dive back into the past with Emma to pick up the clues Jane is looking for. The Girl Before portrays obsession in a creepy and fascinating way, and once it becomes dangerous, the book is impossible to put down. With a likeness to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this book takes you deep into the characters – all disasters in their own way – and allows you to piece together the impossible puzzle JP Delaney has left for us to solve.
The narrative is built in a way that lulls you into a false sense of confidence. You may think you know these characters, you get where the story is going, you’ve cracked the case – and you’ll be dead wrong. With twist after twist, you will be left reeling practically right up until the very last sentence, with one final reveal that genuinely won’t be what you expect (trust us). It’s no big surprise that the film rights have already been snapped up by Universal Studios.
So if you’re after a leisurely read that you can dip in and out of, this is not it. If you are a reader who likes to take their time, we apologise in advance – you will finish this book in a matter of days. The time you spend with Emma and Jane in One Folgate Street won’t be easily forgotten, and will stay with you long after you’ve hastily turned the final page.