The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Psychological suspense? Only if that category includes an extreme amount of suspense. This begins as a story of two women and one bizarre location, One Folgate Street.
Emma, whose chapters are labeled “Then,” needs a new place to live after a traumatic burglary during which she was threatened with a knife. The rental agent has just the thing, One Folgate Street, a fantastic property, even though the landlord is a bit particular. Jane, whose chapters are “Now,” is looking for a new place with an agent named Camilla, who wants to show her the property first, then explain the drawbacks.
Emma doesn’t have too much trouble getting used to the ultra modern place, where the lights and heat are automatic, and nothing is to be changed. No wastebaskets, no coasters, no cushions, are just a few of the prohibitions. The staircase is a series of stone slabs with no handrail. Emma’s friend Simon likens the sparse, stark place to an upmarket prison cell. Soon Emma realizes that she hasn’t had any panic attacks or flashbacks since moving in. Jane thinks the application process is a bit odd, submitting answers to intrusive questions in order to be approved, although most applicants are rejected. The landlord, she’s told, is looking for honest people.
The questionnaire is given in the book, bit by bit. I had fun trying to answer them as I went. The first one: Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The house affects everyone who lives there, molding them and shaping them—changing them. Besides filling out the long list of questions, I found myself wondering who “The Girl Before” really was. Both women delve into the history of the building and the builder. What they find leads to deadly discoveries of birth, death, and terror. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did. A real edge-of-the-seat read!
Reviewed by Kaye George, author of Requiem in Red, for Suspense Magazine