Claire Wright is a British actor living and hoping to improve her craft in the town that never sleeps, New York. Despite Claire’s best efforts to impress her agent and acting school teacher, the job offers aren’t exactly rolling in. Claire well knows that it would only take a few minutes effort from any casting director checking up on her to discover that there’s some dubious history from the set of a previous production filmed back in the U.K.
Yikes. Be prepared for the push and pull as your suspicions settle on one person and then are shunted briskly away to lay uneasily on the head of another. Rinse and repeat.
There’s a lot to like in this novel and there’s also a lot that simply doesn’t work. It’s clever or very clumsy in parts and there’s no continuity with either intent. Claire’s character is suitably complex and we’re all for seeing female characters showing their dark sides, just as male characters have been able to display for the last billion years in fiction. As you progress through BELIEVE ME you are never quite sure if you are dealing with an unreliable narrator – and this can brand a thriller as a one trick pony with there being so many novels about now of this type – or whether this is someone who makes a practice of making monumentally unwise decisions.
Does the reader become invested in the outcome of BELIEVE ME? Not really. We know where we are headed. Second novels following blockbuster debuts can have a terrific weight of expectation placed on them well before release and BELIEVE ME was no exception. The sub culture of sexual fetishes is in interesting inclusion, as is the plot device of selecting certain works of French poet Charles Baudelaire to illustrate the motivations of a killer. BELIEVE ME fires well straight out of the gates but credibility is stretched to breaking point as soon as Claire is asked to contribute her acting talents to the investigation.
BELIEVE ME waxes and wanes between holding your interest and pushing you off to do other things when it gets a bit tedious. You do need to fully invest in Claire and her nebulous reasonings in order to finish this book. Modern relationships are hideously complicated and hats off to BELIEVE ME, as this thriller takes that certainty to a whole new level of dangerous complexity.
BOOK REVIEW - THE GIRL BEFORE, J.P. DELANEY
The title alone tells us that someone has died. We know that the girl who came before is going to exert an influence on the present-day protagonist; someone’s footsteps are going to be walked in once again. So how did the girl before come to her end?
The setting of THE GIRL BEFORE is all important and gives structure to a story that is essentially carried out with in four walls of one very spectacular and unusual house. There are shades of ‘Hal’ in this book too which are delicious, as in that an omnipresent technological mind is controlling the conditions thus manipulating the lives of the occupants of the house. Or is it really?
Poor self esteem, the classic pull of the bad boy and just seriously bad taste all come together to push the sanity of both past Emma, and present Jane. Is it an insult for an untidy person to occupy such a carefully crafted space or is the best creational work still in progress, as in the moulding of the occupant to the new home?
Author J.P. Delaney (a pseudonym) has written here a curiously oppressive work about two women who have occupied the same space in different periods of time. Both characters you literally wish to grab by the shoulders and deliver a good dressing down to, but both were chosen for their vulnerabilities and not their strengths. In this time where wanting less is a real angst of the privileged, the minimalistic setting of this book delivers its own clever and simmering threat of restraint, purposeful conduct and menace.
As in all best works of suspense, no one is quite who they seem and THE GIRL BEFORE deep dives into secret desires of three very modern people with frank aplomb. The ending does make you question just why you came to the conclusions that you did – maybe you overthought that one?
A very clever and absorbing book, THE GIRL BEFORE is a psychological thriller that delivers. Read the book now, as hopefully the big screen adaptation won’t be too far away.