Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

This is one woman’s testimony; her own compelling account of what happpened to her.

You might call it a domestic thriller ….

Hannah  had been working in New York for some years, she was professionally successful and happily single, where mutual friends introduced her to a fellow Briton. His name was Mark, and he was the owner of a highly successful and rapidly growing business. They clicked, their relationship blossomed, and they were married within a matter of months.

It wasn’t long after that that they moved to London, because Mark’s business needed him to be there. They lived in his – their – beautiful townhouse and they were very happy.  Hannah’s only concern was that she hadn’t landed a new job, but she was confident that she would, and that then life would be perfect.

17978144The story start with Hannah driving to Heathrow, to met Mark, who has been away on a business trip. But his flight arrives and there is no sign of him. He hasn’t sent word and he doesn’t answer his phone.

A message does come later: that something came up so that he had to stay on a while longer, that he left his mobile phone in a cab ….

Hannah is irked that he didn’t make the effort to contact her sooner, but she isn’t really worried. Until she learns that Mark’s employees think he is somewhere else entirely. Until she finds money missing from her savings account. Until Mark’s secretary lets slip that a woman she doesn’t know has been calling Mark, and that he always closed his office door when he took her calls.

There’s nothing that can’t be explained. Hannah loves her husband and she knows that he loves her. She trusts him, but she is worried that something is wrong. She thought it could be something in his past, because he would never talk abut them, let alone introduce her to them. And so she tried to find out more. But every answer she found opened up more questions ….

I shouldn’t say too much about the plot. It’s clever, it builds steadily, and it has some wonderfully unexpected twists and turns. This wasn’t the story I expected when I started reading.

Crucially, I liked Hannah, saw things as she did, and wanted answers just as much as she did. There were times when I questioned her actions, when I thought that she was acting recklessly, but I did understand why she did what she did.

The fact that she had returned to London after years away, that she hadn’t found a job, that she had only really socialised with her husband’s circle, meant that she had only her family to turn to, and that worked well for the story. Because she knew that her brother doubted her judgement when it came to men, and sharing what she knew with him would only confirm what he already thought. And because she knew that her mother’s distrust of her father – which proved to be unwarranted – had been the downfall of their marriage. Hannah didn’t want to be like her mother; she wanted to learn from her mistakes. That was a nice touch.

The pages turned very quickly.

The ending was a little over-the-top, but I couldn’t say that it was wrong.

But I almost let go of the story quite early on. Lucie Whitehouse can write well, but there were times when more subtlety would have been welcome – particularly when it came to references to the lifestyle of the newly-weds, and the accoutrements that success had brought them..

It was curiosity, and concern for Hannah, that kept me hanging on for what would grow into a gripping entertainment.

5 responses

  1. Gosh, I love these ‘domestic suspense’ novels! And British women are writing some really great ones these days. I like comparing how different writers maintain the suspense and pace the stories. I’ll have to add this one to my ever-growing list.

  2. Another one for my list. I have previously read Lucie Whitehouse and her second novel was very good. Her first not so, so I will be intrigued by this one.

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