Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: Before She Knew Him

Summary: 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. . . -- William Morrow

I have thoroughly enjoyed every novel that I've read by Peter Swanson, so when I saw that he has a brand-new book out this week called BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, I was definitely in! BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM is another intriguing suspense novel that's fast-paced and a terrific read.

BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM tells the story of Hen, an artist/children's book illustrator who has moved with her husband into a new house outside of Boston. She seems to be in a good place now -- she has a new home, a nearby artist studio, and her bipolar disorder is under control with her current meds. However when she visits her new next-door neighbors' house, she discovers that he has a trophy that reminds of her of a another neighbor -- one who was brutally murdered about two years ago!

Hen was fascinated with this murder but she has moved on... well kind of. When she sees this trophy and starts asking a few questions, she finds herself caught up once again in this murder. She begins to wonder if her neighbor Matthew killed this boy and if he's even a serial killer. The problem is that her husband and the police aren't sure if her concerns are based on reality or another manic episode in her life!

One evening, Hen decides to take matters into her own hands and follows Matthew. She catches him doing something unspeakable in the parking lot of a bar, and worse yet, he sees her watching him. Hen realizes that Matthew is a very dangerous man, yet she still tries to "understand" him despite putting her own life at risk!

I really enjoyed BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM! Mr. Swanson is a fantastic storyteller, and I found his characters to be extremely interesting and complex. Like his other books, this novel has terrific pacing and is a real page-turner. In fact, the only very slight issue I had was that parts of the story were a little predictable.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this novel were the characters of Hen and Matthew and the relationship between them. Matthew was certainly interesting and readers were given just enough of his backstory to explain how he became a crazy killer. Hen was intriguing in that she had a mental illness that made her behavior seem questionable at times. However, it was the scenes where they interacted that made this book so special to me. Their relationship was more than a little "off" to me, yet I appreciated how Matthew almost needed Hen and vice versa. It made for an unusual twist to what could have been a typical suspense novel.

I also enjoyed a few of the twists in this novel. While I did figure out a pretty major one (and I think most readers will!), I did like how there were many times when I wasn't quite sure what was coming next. Many of the chapters ended with mini cliffhangers which made the book hard to put down, and there were plenty of little surprises along the way. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of describing the feel of this novel, but it was a very smart thriller that constantly had suspenseful moments.

All in all, I think fans of psychological thrillers will enjoy BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I thoroughly enjoy his books, too, even though I had to suspend disbelief with this one. I had the big twist figured out but that didn't keep me from enjoying the story either. I thought this was another winner from Swanson.

Unknown said...

This book sounds really good. I love serial/crazy killer novels and this one sounds really good.