Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson, 4 Stars

Does anyone else feel like Spring Break is a full contact sport? I know the kids are home A LOT longer in the summer, but then there is plenty of time to fit in a couple of special excursions, and spend the rest of the time relaxing by the pool.

But during Spring Break, I feel immense pressure to plan fun things to make it “special”, get the kids outside–which results in lots of trips to the park for me, and less time to get work done. And then of course I’m exhausted and I’m spending all the money.

Of course, it’s also hard to fit things into my busy blogging and reading schedule. Sometimes just between work and life, it’s hard to get a post up. So this morning, I sit here before I leave for work, hammering one out. But really, I’ve been fortunate lately. I’d been in a bit of a rut, but the recent crop of books I’ve read have been good. Really good!

Today I’m reviewing Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson.

From the Publisher:


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.

My Review:

From the minute Hen meets Matthew, she gets a weird vibe. Something just isn’t right. He has all the right attributes to be attractive–chiseled good looks, but something is off. Swanson writes:

“…all his features –thick brown hair, pale blue eyes, square jawline–were the features of a good-looking man, yet they all added up to something less than their parts. He stood stiffly, a dress shirt tucked into unstylish high-waisted jeans.”

I kind of wanted to give him a makeover right then and there! But people like that are so weird, am I right? Although my husband taught me that just because someone wears high-waisted or tapered jeans, they aren’t trying to be unfashionable, they just don’t know the difference. I just can’t wrap my mind around that–and no, I don’t allow my husband to wear high-waisted jeans.

So what do you do when you think your next door neighbor MIGHT be a serial killer? Hen can’t help but look into it, with calls to the police and her own personal sleuthing work. The result is a fast-paced and intriguing story that I really enjoyed.

There are definitely a couple twists along the way that I didn’t see coming, but in retrospect, maybe I should have. There is also a bit of foreshadowing–or so I thought–with a coincidence that seems like it just couldn’t happen without there being a connection. And maybe I missed it, but I think that never panned out to anything.

I would have liked to see more about Hen and Lloyd’s relationship. They seem to be one of those couples who do everything together–but they also didn’t seem super in tune with eachother, so it was a little incongruous.

Overall–a solid thriller with great twists and a different voice than your usual thriller. Its the first book I have read by Peter Swanson and I am anxious to get my hands on more! This one is available now–it released earlier this month.

Get your copy:

Indiebound



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