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. . .
Published March 7th 2019 by Faber & Faber (UK)
This is the first book by Peter Swanson I’ve read, and so had no idea what to expect. I did however really like the sound of it. I’m so glad I did though and it most certainly won’t be the last.
Before She Knew Him tells the story of Hen, an artist with a history of mental health problems manifesting in over imagination, suspicion and obsession. When she and husband Lloyd move into a quiet suburb it’s a new start and a chance to put a difficult episode behind them. But when their new next door neighbours, Mira and Matthew, invite them to dinner and Hen spots an item she believes links Matthew to a violent murder, it looks like Hen may be spiralling into ill health again. With her history, no-one is prepared to believe her. Is Hen loosing her grip on reality or is she really living next door to a serial killer?
I absolutely loved the style of writing in this book … it’s very distinct, with chapters alternating between Hen and Matthew. The tone struck an incredibly sinister atmosphere and had me turning pages furiously as it was so engaging and compulsive.
I loved the sense of conflict Peter Swanson creates in the character of Hen. There’s a vulnerability and honesty that has the reader completely on her side, yet all the while there’s an uncertainty whether she is right or is indeed gripped by a psychotic episode. Matthew is a masterclass in cold, clever and creepy. My skin actually crawled at some points.
This is a dark and disturbing story, exploring the impact of domestic violence, sexual abuse and childhood abuse on an individuals mental health and personality. It is shocking in it’s believability – I could almost feel sorry at times where I most certainly shouldn’t have. As thrilling as this book is, it also gives the reader lots to think about.
The book ends with a great twist I really didn’t see coming – and as a seasoned psychological thriller reader I’m not often this taken in by a twist. Though it left me feeling as if I should have spotted it – it’s clever and completely believable. I raced through this book, I loved the creepy, sinister atmosphere and the conflict and uncertainty it provoked. An excellent read, and an author I’ll be making sure I read a lot more of in the future.
I read a free copy of this book courtesy of the Publisher