Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: March 5, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

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. . .

Review –

I absolutely love how Peter Swanson writes in your face psychopaths and mentally unstable people who may or may not be reliable. Truly, he’s brilliant at it.

I found the fact that he shined a bright light on these characters and put the crazy front and center so  refreshing. There’s no beating around the bush about who’s not playing with a full deck. And I was totally happy about that.  In fact, I hated when I had to take a break from listening to do something mundane.Then our of nowhere comes a  major plot twist that  left me reeling.Some may see it as a  pure gimmick, but I thought it was genius. 

This is a psychological thriller, but with just a  bit suspenseful. It’s a story of perversion, cruelty, and deceit. The author skillfully uses it all to keep readers off kilter and breathless to the very last page.  

I have loved every Peter Swanson novel I’ve listened to and I can’t wait for his next book. Mr. Swanson, write faster!!

Five stars.

 

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: February 3, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. Fans of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will love this modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Trainfrom the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart—which the Washington Post said “should be a contender for crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014.”

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

Review –

“A chance airport meeting between strangers sets in motion a Strangers on a Train–inspired murder plot. 

During a delay at Heathrow, wealthy Boston businessman Ted Severson shares drinks with fellow American Lily Kintner, an archivist at a small Massachusetts college. One thing leads to another, but instead of sleeping together, the two confess their deepest secrets: Ted wants to kill his two-timing wife, Miranda, and Lily wants to help him. In case the Patricia Highsmith connection isn’t blatant enough, Swanson (The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, 2014) shows Lily reading The Two Faces of January—“not one of her best”—in the airport. While the title implies that Ted’s (and Lily’s) enemies are the kind worth killing, the reader almost immediately decides it’s the cold, heartless protagonists who should ultimately get the ax. Miranda is indeed cheating on Ted with Brad Daggett, the handsome and dim contractor who’s building the couple’s extravagant Maine vacation home, yet it’s hard to feel sorry for a man who tells a complete stranger that he fantasizes about killing his spouse, let alone a woman who openly encourages such behavior. Lily’s past is slowly, predictably revealed, and we discover her penchant for violence, but instead of making her character more complex, it merely becomes another layer of frustration.

While there are twists, most of them are so clearly telegraphed that only the most careless of readers won’t see what’s coming, especially since Swanson needlessly doubles back over the same events from different points of view. Kirkus Review

I really enjoyed this one and even though I thought I knew all there as to know about the characters, the author throws a curve ball for a great ending.  Fantastic read!

 

 

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: April 3, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

From the acclaimed author of Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing comes a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder—a sly and brilliant guessing game of a novel in the vein of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Patricia Highsmith.

Harry Ackerson has always considered his stepmother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “otherworldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, Harry returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help each other pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

Review –

The crux of this story is this: a woman begins an affair with her stepson. As the story progresses, readers discover she was involved in a similar affair as a young person, too, and are drawn into this repulsive web of taboo relationships. These relationships are not technically illegal, but they’re most certainly uncomfortable and taboo – and the power dynamics between adult and young person presented within them adds a whole other layer of wrong for readers to unpack. The cycle of manipulation and grooming portrayed here was the author’s way of showing how abuse can beget abuse. And that idea – the idea of examining a cycle of abuse – is not in and of itself a bad thing. When portrayed through the lens of commentary on a terrible and very prevalent occurrence, this kind of examination could indeed be quite effective in sparking an important conversation among readers. But it almost takes over the book, in my opinion .

The story is told from a number of perspectives, with the timeline jumping between present and past as pieces of the backstory gradually begin fitting into place. It’s a narrative path well trodden by the modern-day crime writer – here it can serve to confuse and I defy you to reach the end without having to backtrack a little.

While All the Beautiful Lies never quite hits the heady heights of The Kind Worth Killing, it’s still a great read. You may well work out the killer ahead of time, but I’m guessing the clever final twist will come as a big surprise.

Fantastic read!

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Review –

“A young Englishwoman named Kate, mending after a horrific trauma—her jealous ex stalked her, locked her in a closet, and killed himself just outside it—decides a change of scenery might help restore her, and she agrees to a six-month apartment switch with Corbin, an American cousin she’s never met.

If she’s looking to tamp down her paranoia and learn to trust again, though, her cousin’s ultra-luxe Boston apartment is a disastrous choice. As soon as she arrives, Kate discovers there’s been a grisly murder next door. A series of small discoveries in the borrowed apartment, a little police attention/skepticism, and a couple of “chance” conversations with neighbors and acquaintances of the victim lead her increasingly to the conclusion that Corbin was romantically involved with the young woman and is the prime suspect. 

The author is most persuasive when we’re with the vulnerable but resourceful Kate, who ends up carrying on an ever more dangerous shadow investigation, and with her unlikely romantic interest, an awkward, somewhat creepy (the “somewhat” makes him a rarity—and a catch—in this world of fiction), but well-meaning neighbor named Alan. The book flounders a bit when Swanson enters Highsmith territory, attempting to inhabit the minds of sociopathic killers, but he does complicate things interestingly and engineers a tense and intricate finale.

A solid and quick-paced thriller—but one that seems to feature a pop-up psychopath behind every door and under every bed.” Kirkus Review

This is a great, creepy read.