Helene, second wife of Gabe and stepmother to Alice, has it all. Her husband, with whom she works, is a well-respected high-flyer. And Alice is, thankfully, fairly straightforward for a teenager.
But Helene spots a moment of intimacy, another woman’s hand touching Gabe, and her world falls apart.
Maggie, founder and boss of the Blue and White London-based detective agency, enjoys her job exposing cheating husbands and wives. She has built a good reputation, but when Helene walks through the door, she envisages a successful outcome that will blast her company into the big league.
Alice may only be 18, but her work experience at her father’s company is peeling her eyelids back. Despite Helene’s attempts to protect and shelter Alice, the young girl is already on her way to discovering her father has a dark and hidden life.
For me, psychological thrillers are as addictive as chocolate. When well-written, they are the sweets one cannot decide whether to gorge or savour. Before I Find You has all the ingredients for an excellent chocolate indulgence: three distinct main characters and an interesting premise. Unfortunately, the result is rather average.
Maggie, even though the author has spent time developing her, is not a character I can visualise, let alone connect with. She feels like a mishmash of ideas and flaws without substance and is quite unconvincing. Helene is confusingly depicted. But peel back the layers and she is a hackneyed, neurotic second wife. Alice’s voice is utterly unbelievable for a teenager, even an educated one. Her observations are somewhat doubtful too. These three women seem to follow the genre’s must-have of the moment – dislikeable main characters.
If one ignores the prologue, the story starts well, where we meet and learn a little about the three women. However, the prologue is another of those fashionable accessories where the story starts at the end with the catastrophe then the author leaps back in time for the first chapter to show the journey to aforementioned disaster. Unfortunately, the prologue gives almost everything away, leaving the twists at the end decidedly untwisted.
I am certain many will balk at a certain relationship that unfolds towards the end. It is perhaps one of the few aspects of Before I Find You that I will happily wave a banner defending; bad relationships do happen, and they are the stuff of exceptional stories. My only criticism here is it feels like it is there for shock value.
I found reading the same scene from two or three points of view slowed the pacing in places and was, at times, tedious. Although this is clearly for fogging the plot, it doesn’t really work.
That this expose-the-cheat turned into a murder investigation with much involvement from the police about halfway through made my attention wane. I stopped caring about what was going on. I figured out who Gabe's paramour was early on, and when his role diminished, I lost interest in the story. The final denouement stretched credulity and snapped my suspension of disbelief.
This book had the hallmarks of being a box of Belgian finest, but it turned into an ordinary bar of milk chocolate with a bit of dark thrown in. For me it was a fast and easy, but unremarkable read.