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BEFORE WE MET by Lucie Whitehouse: Book Review

How much do you know about anyone, even the person you’ve married?  And what happens when his/her past isn’t what you expected?

Hannah and Mark are practically newlyweds, having been married only eight months.  They met in New York, where Hannah was working at the time, and he was on a business trip.  After their wedding she decides to move back to London, her birthplace, reluctant to have an international marriage; in doing so she is giving up a successful advertising career in Manhattan.

The company Mark started more than a decade earlier, DataPro, is doing extremely well, and although Hannah has been looking for work ever since she returned to England, they appear to be doing very well financially and have an extremely comfortable lifestyle.

As the novel opens Hannah is driving to pick up Mark at Heathrow Airport in London after his business trip to New York, but although his plane arrives he’s not on it.  Getting more anxious by the hour as Mark doesn’t return her phone calls, she finally hears from him the next morning.  He’s full of apologies for his no-show, citing business, and promises to return in three days.

But before Hannah had heard from him, she had called his assistant Neesha at DataPro, who was surprised that Hannah and Mark weren’t together.  When Neesha lets slip that she had thought they were spending the weekend in Rome, Hannah’s anxiety grows stronger.

Still disturbed, but also angry at herself for her worry/distrust, Hannah starts going through Mark’s personal papers in his home office. She knows where his papers are kept, but his personal file isn’t where she had last seen it.  Seeking to put her mind at ease, Hannah goes to his office to look for it.  She looks through his desk until she locates the file and is stunned to learn that Mark has just taken out a huge second mortgage on their home; he had told her the house was virtually mortgage-free.

Even more upsetting, toward the bottom of the file she discovers that her husband has closed all of his savings accounts.  Then there’s the final piece of paper:  her personal account, holding all of the savings she’d accumulated during her years in New York and which Mark had told her was strictly for her own use, has been cleared out.  From the £46,800 she’d deposited, only £29.02 remain.

Before We Met is the story of what seems to be a perfect courtship and marriage.  When Mark returns, he has an answer for every question that Hannah asks, but her uneasiness never completely goes away.  She realizes how little she really knows about her husband.  His parents are dead, he and his younger brother are estranged, all of the friends he has introduced her to are people he has recently met.  Is there more to his past than he has told her?

Lucie Whitehouse has written a true thriller, with an exciting plot and perfectly drawn characters.  The story is told from Hannah’s perspective in the third person, and we are totally aware of all her thoughts.  Her worries seem legitimate, but so do Mark’s answers to her questions.  And the more questions she asks, the more questions she has.

Lucie Whitehouse doesn’t have a web site of her own, but there are several posts about her on the Internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.