“Before We Met” is a riveting story, one that will make you wonder how well you know anyone, especially your spouse. Hannah and Mark, both British, met in New York and were married within eight months. Mark, 40, owns DataPro, a successful company that he had started when he was 23. Since his income was five times greater than Hannah’s, they decided to live where his company is based, in England. They have an idyllic life.
Mark goes on a business trip to New York and doesn’t return on the flight he told Hannah he would be on. When she can’t reach him, she calls Mark’s assistant, who tells Hannah that she thought Mark had gone with Hannah to Rome and knew nothing about the New York trip. When Hannah finally reaches Mark, he says a sudden business deal has come up and he has to stay another few days in New York.
Hannah, troubled, calls the hotel where Mark always stays when he is in New York, but Mark is not registered there. Worried about what might be happening, she looks for clues in his desk at home. She notices that the box with his financial papers is missing. Now she is becoming suspicious.
Hannah goes to Mark’s office on the weekend and finds the box of financial paperwork. S
he is shocked to see a business letter that says, “Following our recent meeting, I am pleased to be able to confirm an extension to your mortgage for 130,000 pounds.” She checks the balance of their mortgage and they still owe 700,000 pounds. Mark had told her he had been making payments for over 10 years on the house so it was almost paid off. And though she was looking for a job in London, he had told her he didn’t need her income right now to help pay the mortgage.
Other documents show that he was closing accounts and transferring all the funds to one account, which totals 73,000 pounds.
Hannah is angry and hurt that Mark had mentioned none of this to her. Her mind wanders through all the possibilities of why he would need money. Is he supporting a mistress? Is the company in financial trouble? Did he make a bad investment, or does he gamble? Then she notices that her bank statement in the box, showing that she has 47,000 pounds.
She decides to check her balance online and is horrified to discover that Mark had emptied out her bank account four days earlier.
When she gets home, she sees Mark’s monthly bank statement. She opens it and finds no transactions to hotels or lingerie companies.
She finds payments to service stations in England, but Mark’s calendar says he was in Germany on those dates.
Hannah meets her brother, who assures her that there must be a logical explanation because Mark loves her. She gets voicemails from Mark but is unable to talk to him because his regular phone is lost. So she goes to Mark’s office to talk with his assistant.
The assistant, Neesha, tells Hannah that a woman named Hermione Alleyn has been calling the office. Hannah worries that if Mark is having an affair, she would want a divorce, but she has no job and no money and they are in a great deal of debt. She looks online and discovers that Hermione is a nephrologist.
Hannah goes to the hospital where Hermione works to meet her. When Hermione sees Hannah, she has a look of horror on her face.
She assures Hannah that they are not having an affair, and instead have been talking about Mark’s brother, Nick, who is being released from prison.
Mark comes home and has explanations for everything, but Hannah finds out that his explanations are not quite correct. The suspense builds to a harrowing conclusion, leaving the reader wondering what kind of man Mark is.
The author, Lucy Whitehouse, was born in England and now lives in New York. She has written two other novels.