Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

Before We MetBefore We Met by Lucie Whitehouse
4.5 stars

I feel like I just have to write a review for this novel (as well as wanting to) because, unlike many reader reactions I’ve seen, I absolutely loved this third book by author Lucie Whitehouse.
Before We Met is easily my favorite book by this author, but it is a bit of a departure from her earlier writing style, so I can see how some readers might not be pleased. First of all, the plot:
Before We Met introduces us to our main character, Hannah, who seems to have pretty much the perfect life. She is independent, beautiful, and capable, and is recently married to a man she believes to be the love of her life. She met her new husband, Mark, while the two were in New York, and as a couple, they have moved home to their native England. They have a passionate love affair, a beautiful home, and Mark is a successful businessman. As the story begins, however, Hannah’s seemingly idyllic world begins to crumble, as she realizes that Mark has lied to her about where he is going on a business trip. As Hannah investigates the deception, she uncovers more and more lies that will put her world, and ultimately, her life, in danger.
Before We Met is a compelling mystery of the best kind, one in which we have a likeable heroine, layer upon layer of secrets, and a great dose of suspense and action to round out the story.
With that plot intro out of the way, here’s why I liked the story, and why I think some readers might not.
Lucie Whitehouse’s earlier novels, The House at Midnight, and The Bed I Made, share some characteristics and themes with Before We Met. They all have a young female main character who is intelligent, kind, and easy to identify with. They also all involve psychological suspense; The House at Midnight follows a group of friends with buried secrets, The Bed I Made follows a young woman who moves to the Isle of Wight to get away from a bad relationship. And they all deal with issues of trust, abuse, and personal agency.
However, there are some crucial differences in tone between the novels. While to me, The House and Midnight and The Bed I Made were definitely on the literary side, in the sense that to some extent, I found them slow going, Before We Met is a novel that, although just as well written, was fast paced and included more action along with suspense. To my mind, in this way, Before We Met has the potential to appeal to a wider audience. I can see how some readers who were fans of Lucie Whitehouse’s first novels might be unhappy with what they view as a more “mainstream” novel, but to me, Before We Met was just as good as Whitehouse’s earlier works, with the added bonus of a really compelling mystery and a pace that didn’t let up.
I didn’t see Before We Met as any kind of Gone Girl imitation or as succumbing to commercialism. To me, it was a well-plotted, well-written thriller in its own right, and it was a blast to read.
The other thing that I really loved about this novel was how the author described contemporary London-the streets, subway stations, and neighborhoods in detail. As someone who recently visited London, I enjoyed reading about Hannah taking subway lines that I remember taking, and it made her story seem that much more real.
I would highly recommend Before We Met. It exceeded my expectations, and I hope that it will find a wide audience of readers.

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