Hardcover, 256 pages.
Release date: January 16th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
A whirlwind romance. A picture-perfect marriage. Hannah Reilly has seized her chance at happiness. Until the day her husband fails to come home...
The more questions Hannah asks, the fewer answers she finds. But are the secrets that Mark has been keeping designed to protect him or protect her? And can you ever really know what happened before you met
Meet Hannah, a thirty-something New York City dwelling career girl and complete commitment-phobe. At least that was the old Hannah, the Hannah before she met Mark Reilly. Nowadays Hannah lives in a beautiful London townhouse where her days consist of jogging and job-hunting. But Hannah is happy. She’s married to Mark. Yes, their relationship and subsequent marriage may have been a complete whirlwind, and she may have had to give up her job and relocate because of it, but Hannah is certain she made the right choice.
She’s certain that Mark is the man she’ll spend the rest of her life with. Hannah is certain that Mark is the only man for her. But how well does Hannah really know Mark?
When we pick up the story, Hannah is on her way to Heathrow to surprise Mark who has been away on one of his many business trips to New York. As successful as he is dashing and charismatic, Mark is the director of his own company. Hannah reaches the airport, and waits and waits, but there is no sign of Mark. He’s not on his scheduled flight, and, though Hannah waits for hours, Mark doesn’t show. Furthermore, he’s not answering his phone. Refusing to panic, pragmatic Hannah returns home. But when Mark still hasn’t returned the next morning, Hannah decides to take action. Mark’s PA –the woman who practically runs his life- has no knowledge of a business trip to New York. In fact, she thinks that Mark and Hannah are enjoying a romantic weekend in Rome. When Mark does eventually call, he offers personally reasonable explanations for his absence and non-contact. But Hannah knows in her heart that something is not quite right. And though she’s reluctant to jump to conclusions, ever-conscious of how her own paranoid mother drove away her husband with constant slights and accusations, it’s pretty clear to Hannah that Mark is lying. All signs point to an affair. Has Mark taken someone else, his mistress, off to Rome for the weekend? Hannah is not quite sure what’s going on. But she knows one thing: she no longer trusts Mark. And she’s determined to find out the truth.
Billed as a psychological thriller in the vein of, you guessed it, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse is a story of lies, ambition and past secrets buried deep. The comparisons with Gone Girl are inevitable, I guess, since this is a story of secrets within a marriage and, just like Flynn’s bestseller, it poses the question of how well anyone really knows the person they marry. Because everybody has their secrets, right? Hannah has hers; Mark certainly has his, and the race to find out what exactly he’s playing at makes Before We Met a gripping page-turner. I love books of this type, but I think the Gone Girl comparisons are overdone. Sure –comparing a book to a multi-million bestseller will up its exposure and sales, but it also raises expectations. Here, I needed more shocks. Before We Met is a really good read, but the twists were overall a little too predictable, and the ending just a little too neat for my liking.
That said, Before We Met is one of the better psychological thrillers I’ve read lately, and this one has certainly compelled me to check out more of Whitehouse’s books. Her previous novel The Bed I Made is on my list, as is her debut, the eerily-titled The House at Midnight. In Whitehouse, I think I’ve found one of those authors who can make me pick up a book and not put it down until I’m done and have devoured every little twist and turn. And that can only be a good thing.