The Girl Before
by J. P. Delaney, Hachette.
At a time when there is a proliferation of psychological mysteries with the world “girl” in the title, here’s another. This one has a technological twist, which gives it a futuristic feel, although it is set in current times and seems unsettlingly plausible. It’s the stories of Emma and Jane, both tenants of an ultra-modernist, minimalist house, which is controlled by sensors and the all-pervading Housekeeper app. Housekeeper manages the lighting, heating, the temperature of the shower – it’ll even suggest clothing for the day. The architect owner of One Folgate Street puts all prospective tenants through a rigorous interview process and expects the successful applicants to abide by strict conditions, but both Emma and Jane are looking for a secure escape from past trauma and sense this unusual home could be their refuge. The girls occupy the London home at different times and, tragically, Emma – the girl before – dies there. As the house and its designer draw her in, Jane is determined to find out what exactly happened to her predecessor, but could this put her own life in danger? Brief chapters alternate the girls’ stories, which makes this creepily absorbing read clip along at a rapid pace. RM