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Before She Knew Him Hardcover – 7 Mar 2019
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Swanson's pacing is exemplary. He knows how to ration his twists and where in the narrative to place them, devoting just the right amount of time to exploring the ramifications of each new development before spinning the story off in an ominous new direction. And if a lot of what he does is juggling around well-used tropes from suspense fiction, the way he does it is so smart and exciting that you're just happy to get swept along...Brian de Palma, or Hitchcock, were he still alive, would kill for the film rights. (Alastair Mabbott The Herald)
Before She Knew Him is Swanson's fifth novel and it's a sizzling slice of his unique brand of domestic noir. tingling with tension, brimming with menace, and shot through here with a hint of seductive gothic...Swanson is on brilliant form in this intriguing, fast-paced thriller which harnesses the dark atmospherics of Rear Window and the complex characterisation of Patricia Highsmith, and transposes them into a fascinating contemporary setting...And in trademark style, Swanson's ingenious plotting throws up tantalising clues and then slowly unravels them through a series of shocking revelations, leaving readers confused, bemused and racing to the last page. Compelling, creepy, and psychologically astute, this is stylish thriller writing at its very best. (Pam Norfolk Lancashire Evening Post)
What would you do if you began to suspect your next door neighbour was a serial killer? That is the dilemma faced by artist Hen - and the jumping off point for this very contemporary thriller that will keep you gripped through every elegant twist and turn. (Sunday Mirror/The People)
'Swanson writes stand-alone stories, almost an oddity in contemporary crime and thriller literature, where series abound. Yet his novels stand in a class of their own, and 'Before She Knew Him' is no exception: a superb psychological suspense novel, slowly but irresistibly growing in tension, brilliantly observed in the nuances of its characterisation, and merciless in catching the reader entirely unaware with its twists...a first-rate psychological suspense novel, populated with intense, highly believable characters you will really feel for. Though, after reading it, you may look on your neighbours with new eyes.' (Nic Mira ThrillerBooksJournal)
'Before She Knew Him, is a superb, twisty, disturbing picture of a plausible, charming man who happens to be a psychopath, and the young woman who knows what he is but cannot convince the police of his guilt...This was the kind of book you whizz through, and think about when you're not actually reading it. I can't recommend it highly enough.' (Harriet Devine Shiny New Books)
'This book will be on my BEST books of 2019 list for sure. I can't recommend it enough.' (Umut Reviews)
'Before She Knew Him is a wonderful slow burn of a novel which held my attention from beginning to end.' (damppebbles.com)
'The narrative trickery is bold but reined-in, and the action is confined to a patch of New England
suburbia, evoked in John Updike-like loving detail. Here, as in all his best work, Swanson is equally beguiling when conjuring up the mind of a sociopath and the middleclass Eden that harbours him.'
'Fans of his previous bestsellers, such as All the Beautiful Lies, won't be disappointed with Swanson's latest offering...As usual he is spot on with his understanding of the shifting power in relationships.' (Christena Appleyard Daily Mail)
'Peter Swanson is such a clever author who has written a blinder of a novel which kept on surprising me until the very last page.' (The Writing Garnet)
From Peter Swanson, author of The Kind Worth Killing and All the Beautiful Lies, comes a novel as brilliant, dark, coruscating and surprising as Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin at their very bestSee all Product description
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Here seem the ingredients for a gripping psychological thriller. Some, though, may wish the two key characters did not repeatedly act in ways that beggar belief. Hen herself is not exactly endearing - her speciality, illustrations deliberately calculated to unnerve - even when (especially when?) targeted at children.
Be advised many have praised. For me, here are two characters who belong more to the page than reality. Admittedly a climatic development helped to explain certain aspects that had puzzled, this review thus with three stars rather than two.
What do you mean, you already know I’ve loved the book?!
Well, let me tell you why anyway!
Moving is exciting, but there’s some pressure about meeting new neighbours and feeling a bit apart in a suburban street where the normal is 2.4 kids and a shiny car in the driveway. So, it’s a relief for Hen and Lloyd to find their closest neighbours don’t have children either and look quite normal.
What is normal?
That’s how Hen and Lloyd end up dining at Mira and Matthew’s house. An evening that will change four lives. Or many more…
Hen is a fascinating character. Her voice in one of the three you hear throughout the book, and she’s my favourite. Vulnerable but resilient, reliably unreliable or unreliably thanks to a brilliant twist used by the author to cast doubt on Hen’s thoughts and actions, she’s an artist with a clever mind. Her art is dark, deep, dazzling. She’s made the strongest impression on me and was the light to another character’s dark: Matthew.
When the sight of a trophy in Matthew’s study brings memories back, Hen listens to her gut, sure that she has put her finger on something big. But with only so little to go with, who will believe her? The book is divided in parts and although all three are simply brilliant, I’d like to say the first one was the one who had a biggest impact on me. What do you do when you know something but everyone is deaf to your screams for help? How much proof is needed for others to trust your instinct? Now I am back to the ‘tool’ I mentioned earlier. Hen has a mental health past and is under medication, putting her straight away into the ‘not to be trusted’ witness box. This, for me, sounded so true and so unfair, giving the novel a complex layer. I fought with Hen, with all my strength. I can’t say I was convinced from scratch by Hen’s theory, but she actually won me over rather quickly, with logical explanations and the right arguments, and I felt the urge to bang my fist on the table and scream ‘LOOK! She’s RIGHT!!!’ In a nutshell, it was Hen and I against the world. The tension was everywhere as Peter Swanson sowed the seeds of what was to come in the two other parts with hints and thrills brought by a perfectly handled narrative.
Part two and three are equally compelling, the split narrative between Hen and Matthew keeping my toes moving in trepidation of what was to come. The first part is a threshold and the rest is pure darkness in every day clothes. I am not talking faceless monsters you can’t understand. That would have been too easy. I faced real people dealing with internal demons. The relationship between Hen and Matthew is sickly good, stunningly electric and makes for an intense and cunning way to explore motives, appearances, and … so much more I can’t talk about without spoiling it for you!!! Frustration! But let me tell you, Before She Knew Him is black and original. So original that the ending came as a total surprise. My mouth was hanging open as I was reading. I couldn’t think, I just wanted to read to fully understand what was happening. I later went back to the events that had led to the fireworks that make the ending and view them with new eyes, fresh and knowing eyes who could see there was no other ending possible.
Scarcely had a reading been so satisfying. Before She Knew Him is a chilling ride into the world of classic psychological thrillers, it reminds us what it takes for the genre to take our breath (and mind) away!
We meet Hen and Lloyd who have recently moved into a new house. Hen is an illustrator and has a studio nearby and is managing her bipolar disorder with meds. Things are ticking along quite nicely for her until a tour of her neighbour's house after a dinner party sends her reeling. She sees, or thinks she sees, a familiar object in Matthew's study. A sports trophy that looks identical to one that went missing from the scene of a murder. She knows this key detail as she is a bit obsessed with the still unsolved crime, having lived nearby the victim. Matthew knows she has seen it, knows that he might be in trouble. But he also knows about her health issues... And so begins a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between Hen and Matthew. Her trying to prove he is a killer and him trying to prove she is suffering a bipolar episode and delusional. What lengths will Hen go to prove her suspicions, and what will that personally cost?
Wow! This book seriously messed with my head with all its twists and turns and directions it raced off, mostly at tangents. But, in amongst all this racing about, the story flowed so smoothly and, when it all wrapped up, it came together very well. It's told from the pov of both Hen and Matthew, two very distinct and different voices, so I got to know them very well as characters along the way. Both had their endearing points as well as their negative ones and I did connect to the both of them pretty much right from the off which is important to me; makes for a better read.
As more and more backstory came out, the plot became rather bizarre and, maybe, a little over the top but, at the end of the day, it worked, it really did! The twists were extremely well crafted and, with the benefit of hindsight, never felt like they came out of left field. The way that certain things were exposed at certain points made the book go in a direction I really wasn't expecting. I can't explain this as it would be a bit spoilery but I will just say that the race to the end was both mind-blowing and jaw-dropping. Don't forget to breathe!
The ending - well - all the way through I was trying to figure out how on earth the author would manage to wrap it all up to my satisfaction. With every shock he delivered I adjusted my thoughts until I eventually gave up and just went with the flow. And he did not disappoint, leaving me completely satisfied at the book's conclusion. Great job, well done.
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.