I prefaced the need for a good February evening thriller in Part One of my Feb Fiction post. I would’ve named it Feb Thrillers, but I’m a sucker for a good alliteration, so there you have it. I guess I could have called the series Feb Faves, but, as you may have gleaned from my previous review, I harbored a strong dislike towards All the Missing Girls. Luckily, the lingering disappointment of a bad thriller was quickly alleviated with The Girl Before. Are you even allowed to publish a thriller these days that doesn’t contain the title “Girl”? Askng for a friend.
The Girl Before is a UK-based thriller, which already brings it up a notch in my book. I was born and raised in Manhattan, but I have been seized by a near constant desire to move to London. There’s something about the city that seems more glamourous and exciting than New York to me and since I haven’t yet had the courage to make the move, reading about is as close as I’m currently willing to get.
The Girl Before is the story of two women living in the same flat in London; one, Jane, is living there in present day, and the other, Emma, is “the girl before”, who died in the flat before Jane inhabited it. Both came upon the flat after recovering from personal traumas (Emma, a burglary; Jane, a stillbirth) that compelled them to leave their previous living arrangements behind. They are both disheartened by the expensive and unsatisfying real estate market—so much so that they nearly give up on moving altogether, until their respective agents suggest they look at an “unusual house.” The house, One Folgate Street, is magnificent, massive, and modern. Both women wonder how the house could possibly come so cheap—and are disheartened to discover that attendants must undergo an interview process with the architect himself, and that the lease contains 200+ rules that must be abided by (including ones that stipulate things as ridiculous as, “no books on the floor”). As soon as the interview comes around, Emma and Jane are both so taken by the charms of the architect, Edward, that they jump at the chance to live in the house once approved. It is only once Emma, and, subsequently, Jane, inhabit the house that they realize all of its modern trappings may or may not be being used to watch them a little too closely. Edward, a man who both women initially found incredibly sexy, starts to become scarier and more controlling. And when each of them do digging on the house’s past, they realize they may be in too deep to escape.
As I declared on my Instagram (throw it a follow, I need the likes), The Girl Before quickly earned a place as one of my favorite thrillers. HOWEVER, I feel the need to disclaim that the book is a bit sexual, and Emma seems to take on some Fifty Shades of Grey tendencies that may not be for the faint of heart. It’s not exactly a “bodice ripper,” but as someone who feels uncomfortable when a character in a book calls her boyfriend “daddy,” I felt it my moral duty to issue a fair warning. R Rating aside, this is a book that’s well worth spending a weekend whipping through.