About Before She Knew Him
• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 25, 2020)
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. . .
Can you reread a thriller and love it just as much the second time? When it comes to a book by Peter Swanson, absolutely.
I originally read this book last year and if I remember correctly, I tore through it in a few sittings. That’s always a good sign!
Unreliable narrators are my favorite when done well and Swanson is a master at leaving a tiny doubt in the mind of the reader about each character. Hen was my favorite character because she struck a balance of endearing and barely believable because of her obsession with the case and her past.
This book had me guessing from the beginning the first time around and while I did guess the big twist, I wasn’t disappointed but instead impressed with myself because Swanson always writes a great twist… or two. Reading it a second time gave me the opportunity to pick up on some subtleties I missed the first time and I appreciated the writing even more.
I originally went into this book a bit concerned about the portrayal of mental illness but it is handled well. If you are sensitive to this, it’s something to be aware of but I wouldn’t let it discourage you from reading this book.
Peter Swanson is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to thrillers – and I’m picky. If you haven’t read this one, add it to your TBR list soon!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for this gifted copy in exchanged for my unbiased review.
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.