Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

before we met

After reading this book, I decided to go with a report card approach for the review as I enter the report card writing season. Prior to reading Before We Met, I had no idea what the story was about beyond the initial book description, which is my preferred approach to reading new authors.

Strengths: The novel started off strong setting up the story with a husband who is expected home from a business trip only he never arrives, leaving his new wife understandably concerned about his whereabouts as she waits for him at the airport.

As Hannah tries to figure out where her husband might be, we are introduced to the story of how Hannah and Mark met, fell in love and end up permanently settling back in London through Hannah’s flashbacks.
Lucie Whitehouse does a good job of laying the groundwork for a big secret that Mark is clearly keeping from his wife as she seems to stumble upon one lie and then another as she is left waiting for his eventual return home.

It is at about the halfway point in the book that Whitehouse introduces what has the potential to be a very interesting twist to Mark and Hannah’s story, by introducing a new layer to the story as a secret from Mark’s past is revealed.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, it is just as the story seems to be taking an interesting turn the wheels came off the bus for me as a reader. Unlike in the first half of the novel, Whitehouse’s attempt to ramp up the suspense and intrigue seems to cause her to lose sight of her plot line and the story seems to jump through a variety of genres before finally settling on a ‘psychological thriller’.

By the time it is clear what type of story Before We Met has decided it will be, there are so many contrived scenes that I felt like I was being led through each new plot development by the nose. The actions of the characters no longer seemed believable and as new characters were introduced, it felt like they had just been dropped into the story to further the plot, rather than naturally woven into tale.

Next Steps: As I read this novel, I became increasingly confused and then frustrated about how a book that started off so strong ended so poorly. I found myself remembering a piece of advice from New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong gave at writing workshop for aspiring authors, (and I’m paraphrasing) which was never forget that your readers are smart and that they will “get” the story if you give them the chance. The bottom line is: readers need to be allowed to put the pieces together for themselves, we don’t need to be spoon fed every detail.

An excellent example of a well written psychological thriller is Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. In this novel, the reader is allowed to sift and sort through just the right amount of clues about what is truly going on in the story so that the suspense builds naturally. As the pieces came together, I remember the pure enjoyment of realizing how wrong my initial predictions were about where the story was headed because where Watson had taken the story was just so much better.

My report card grade: C+

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review. 

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