I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on February 25, 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Murder, Mystery, Psychological Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Serial Killers
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door
From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .
Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.
But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.
Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?
The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .
It’s been a few years since I’ve read a Peter Swanson novel, and I really enjoyed Her Every Fear. Before She Knew Him was an equally enjoyable psychological thriller with intriguingly flawed characters playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Henrietta and Lloyd have just moved to the suburbs of Boston, and they meet their neighbors: Mira and Matthew. While artsy Hen makes a living with her dark and twisted illustrations for children’s fantasy novels, her husband and neighbors have much more normal jobs like high school teacher and software salesperson.
Hen had gone through a dark time in college when she was diagnosed as bipolar, but she’s been on medicine for years and has done well. But when Matthew and Mira have them over for dinner and a tour of their home, Hen instantly recognizes something in Matthew’s study as a trophy taken from the murder of someone who lived on their old block, and Hen becomes convinced that they live next door to a murderer. She becomes obsessed with figuring out if Matthew is a murderer, and we find out pretty early on that he is indeed a serial killer. But police won’t believe Hen since Matthew uses her unstable past against her.
All four main characters have some big strikes against them personality wise, and that’s what makes them so real and relatable. Hen’s single-minded pursuit of the truth about Matthew puts her marriage in jeopardy, but Matthew’s carefully crafted life with Mira and at school starts to unravel just as quickly as he becomes intrigued with Hen. Matthew does have a code as far as taking someone’s life goes, and Hen believes that she is in no danger from Matthew. But will she get to the bottom of the truth before anyone else dies, or will Matthew grow desperate as everything closes in around him?
I give Before She Knew Him a 4.5 out of 5. There were a few big twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, and I really enjoyed the path that the book took in the end. Unreliable narrators are one of my favorite things, and none of the characters’ points of view that we hear from in this book are remotely reliable. You never know who to believe until the truth smacks you in the face. Dark, a bit grisly at times, twisty enough to keep you guessing as it moves at a fast enough pace, Before She Knew Him hit all the right notes for me. I love when all of the plots come together nicely and seamlessly. I highly recommend this one for fans of psychological thrillers.
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About Peter Swanson
Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. He lives outside of Boston, where he is at work on his next novel.
Connect with Peter Swanson
Peter Swanson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM:
Tuesday, February 25th: Instagram: @kmc_reads
Wednesday, February 26th: Instagram: @kraysbookclub
Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @jess_reads_books
Friday, February 28th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines
Saturday, February 29th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark
Sunday, March 1st: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_
Monday, March 2nd: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Thursday, March 5th: Instagram: @katieladyreads
Tuesday, February 25th: Reading Girl Reviews
Wednesday, February 26th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, February 27th: PhDiva
Monday, March 2nd: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews
Tuesday, March 3rd: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, March 4th: Write – Read – Life
Thursday, March 5th: Jessicamap Reviews
Friday, March 6th: Booked J
Monday, March 9th: Instagram: @bookishanki
Thursday, March 12th: Instagram: @the.magicalpages