Called the “‘ top girl’ of this season’s suspense novels,” by The Washington Post and picked as the #1 LibraryReads title for January, The Girl Before by JP Delaney (PRH/Ballantine; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), receives two additional high profile reviews today.
Charles Finch, author of the Charles Lenox mysteries, gives it three stars in USA Today. He opens by listing its “major faults,” but then goes on to say “Delaney has created a genuinely eerie, fascinating setting … The pages fly.”
Putting Delaney in the company of Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, and Shari Lapena, “the tier of writers a solid two or three notches below Tana French and Gillian Flynn,” he points out that even an imperfect novel can be fun to read and, as his review illustrates, fun to talk about. He concludes that this one is “worth a few hours of idle pleasure.”
Janet Maslin is less generous in her NYT review, headlined, “He Doesn’t Like It When You Leave Your Shampoo Out.”
She acknowledges that the novel works in many ways. It is set in “a high-tech house so sadistic that it practically spanks” the main characters. It features a man who is “50 shades of pervy but still charms, ” is fast paced, and “milks suspense” from its juxtaposing plots.
Unlike Finch, Maslin, who was an early supporter of the fun to be had from recent successful “girl” titles, does not find this one a worthy “girl” contender, saying “The author, clearly writing with commercial success in mind, has used as many other familiar genre ploys as the book can hold, to the point at which it has everything but a dead cat. Oh, wait. There’s a dead cat too.” There is also “clumsy trickery” and, at times, “unnerving ghoulishness.”
Based on the strong holds in libraries, Finch’s theory, that an imperfect novel can still be fun to read, has more followers.
UPDATE: the minimal book trailer underscores the meaning of the title.