So apparently “Marriage Thriller” is a genre, and it turns out that it is a genre that I actually like. Who’d have thought it? Not me and my illusions of literary grandeur. Thinking about it, I guess it started with Daphne Du Murier’s Rebecca, a book I expected to hate. Required reading on my undergrad (for Literature, Media and Culture class FYI), I went into it huffing and puffing and… loved it! More recently I was gripped by Gone Girl fever and even found myself enjoying Before I Go To Sleep. When I saw Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met described as the “new Gone Girl” it went straight on my must read list.
As a successful marketeer in New York, Hannah never saw herself as the settling down type. Deterred by her parent’s acrimonious divorce she prefers the excitement of fleeting encounters and self-protection of never allowing anyone fully in. However, when she meets Mark Reilly through mutual friends all her inhibitions fall by the wayside. They marry and she moves back to the UK with him, her home, and where his prosperous company is based. Hannah finds herself clinging to a routine of daily runs, job hunting and busying herself while Mark is away on business, but she is happy and excited for the future. She has finally let the demons of her past go, including the fear of becoming an accusatory, nagging wife like her mother, who Hannah blames for the breakdown of her parent’s marriage.
When Mark fails to return on schedule from a business trip to New York with a deluge of flimsy excuses, Hannah’s mind is thrown into chaos. Is it an affair? Gambling? Something worse? Reluctantly giving in to her paranoia (and anger) she starts digging into their finances, Mark’s business and his relationships with his friends and family.
What Hannah discovers is of course shocking to her, but also to the reader. The twists and turns are as unpredictable as you could wish for in this enjoyable thriller.
Before We Met is told from the point of view of Hannah. Hannah is an engaging protagonist, she is smart, relatable and strong-willed She is sympathetic without being meek and infuriating and you genuinely feel for her as her world come crashing down. Mark is also an appealing character, he is intelligent, caring, charming, and this only adds to the suspense as the story builds.
Much of the story is told in flashback sequences. One criticism is that at times it can be difficult to keep up, the writing jumps too rapidly and sometimes lacks fluidity. However, Before We Met is a strong thriller. It’s not particularly groundbreaking or challenging but it is gripping and you will want to follow Hannah’s story through to the end (even if you do work it out early!). I really enjoyed it, probably as much as Gone Girl – although they are very different books, likeable characters for one!
What do you think of Before We Met? Any other “marriage thrillers” I should check out?