Before She Knew Him: A Novel (Paperback)
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. . .
Peter Swanson is the author of seven 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; Before She Knew Him, and Eight Perfect Murders. 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.
— Wall Street Journal
“[A] neatly knotted suspense story.”
— New York Times Book Review
“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.”
— Guardian (UK)
“A twisty, fast-paced tale that depicts picket-fence suburbia’s seamy, murderous underside… Swanson is at his best in exploring the kinship—or what some see as the kinship—between artist and killer, one of the themes of Swanson’s great model and forebear, Patricia Highsmith… A dark, quick-moving, suspenseful story.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“It is deliciously good – dry, intelligent, perfectly paced, [and] there is more than a touch of the Barbara Vines about the delicately played out, deliciously dark relationship that develops between Hen and Matthew… This is Swanson’s best thriller yet.”
— The Observer (UK)
“Plenty of suspense and surprises... This intense and sinister thriller builds to a shocking conclusion as the bizarre relationship between a woman and her killer neighbor plays out.”
“There’s a neat twist at the end, but the real surprise is the way characters are allowed to grieve their losses, a luxury not always allowed in stories of this type. For a fast-paced thriller, Before She Knew Him achieves an impressive significance in its pauses.”
“Swanson builds the tension to a nearly unbearable level... The detail he uses as he delves into their lives and psyches foreshadows the stunners to follow… A cornucopia of carnage and craziness, Before She Knew Him simultaneously disturbs and delights.”
— The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
“A wicked thriller that does not disappoint… Another gem that pulls the reader in and never lets go, even as the story comes to a close. This is a book that will keep you up at night and haunt your thoughts. A fun, chilling read.”
— Manhattan Book Review
“Woven into this twisty-turny murder thriller is mental illness and the instability it causes. Maybe worse than not being able to rely on yourself is that other people might not believe you. How can they be sure you’re not being paranoid, or manic, or obsessive?”
— The Big Thrill