I predict that The Girl Before will be the next “it” book to replace The Girl On The Train. So far, this was the best book I read in 2017. At the heart of this psychological thriller was an architecturally unique home that was rented out to people who would agree to abide by the more than 200 rules placed on them by the builder. Both Emma and Jane live there, but only one woman survived.
The home was created to be a living organism that would impact the lives of the inhabitants. Many people applied to live in the award winning home, but only a few had ever passed the architect’s tests. Both Emma and Jane had tragedies in their past, and it was unclear whether that made them attractive tenants to the owner. Divided into “Before” with Emma as the tenant, and “Now” with Jane as the tenant, their stories began to overlap early on. I liked both Jane and Emma because they were strong women who were outspoken. They blatantly disregarded the rules of the home and challenged the men who they were in relationships with. As each woman changed, part of the mystery of this novel was whether they were changing as a result of the home, the owner Edward, or the personal tragedy they were trying to recover from.
The story really became odd when Edward initiated a relationship with each woman. He treated both of them so similarly, a frightening aspect that became even more pronounced when back to back chapters had him systematically repeating the same behavior and saying the same things to each of them. About half way through the novel, it was revealed that Emma died in the home, which brought an eerie aspect to the book. Jane learned of the death and soon became obsessed with finding Emma’s killer, which led her to suspect Edward and the apartment. Her investigation was tied into her own relationship with Edward so that her curiosity made sense to the plot and helped to develop her as a character.
This was filled with lies and spooky coincidences. The writing superbly gave insight into each character and their motivations. The action mounted and climaxed throughout the novel and never slowed. I also liked that some of the applications questions posed to the tenants were included as section headers for the novel. They were thought provoking questions that helped demonstrate how Edward intended to exert influence over the tenants. This was a fantastic story that I have already recommended to others.