This was quite simply a roller coaster of a novel. It has everything that is needed from a good psychological thriller.
None of us react well when there are too many rules, but when an architect creates hundred of rules about how to live in one of the houses he built, there are only a few people who could contemplate living by those rules. Sometimes they are desperate to find somewhere to live, or so scared by past events that they need to find somewhere safe, or sometimes they might even have their own agenda. The book revolves around two tenants of the minimalist house designed by award winning architect Edward Monkford. The chapters flips between two first person accounts, with each chapter starting either “Then: Emma” or “Now: Jane”. Emma used to live in the house, but died there in what seems to be a tragic accident. Jane is the new tenant who can’t help but be curious about the girl who lived there before.
After a slightly slow start suddenly I was hooked, as The Girl Before turned into a tense psychological thriller. It moved up a level with all the rules and the questions the architect asked before allowing anyone to live in his house. They were more like moral dilemmas than the questions for a perspective tenant. “Would you sacrifice yourself for ten innocent strangers? What about ten thousand strangers?” Then Edward Monkford himself was very OCD in his behaviours and as both girls got to know him better they saw unusual traits, things that you would expect from someone who has problems forming lasting relationships.
Having turned on the full blast of the psychological tension mid-way through the book, the pace does drop a little as we try to sort out the real reasons behind Emma’s death and who had a motive to kill her. Was it the house itself, with all its weird monitoring systems and ability to deny you things like hot water or gas to cook with. Was it Emma’s ex-boyfriend or even the strangely behaved architect himself who had an affair with her? Will one of them strike again when Jane comes to live at Number 1 Folgate Street?
A great thriller which I hope will make a good film one day, in the same vein as Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train.