I thought it’d be a nice change, for once, to actually read my Book of the Month pick before the next one arrives in the mail. And the book I chose for March is Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson. I’d heard of Peter Swanson, but had never read any of his books. So it was definitely time.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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. . .
Before She Met Him is a really interesting thriller. I thought the premise was clever. As someone who watches and reads a decent amount of true crime, I would 100% have been obsessed with a murder that took place on my street. And, like Hen, I might have recognized a trophy from said murder if I saw it later. So it was especially interesting to see what happened next.
The first half of the novel was good, but fairly predictable. But the second half of this book is where it really starts to get interesting. There were quite a few twists I wasn’t expecting, but I also wasn’t surprised by them, either. They made sense in the context of the story, and I really appreciated how many clues there were leading up to them. I kind of hate when authors spring something on readers that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated (the “hey this person that is being mentioned for the first time is actually the killer!” drives me crazy). There isn’t any of that in this book, which I liked a lot.
However, I also didn’t really like many of the characters. While I liked that Hen is an artist – I kind of wish there were illustrations, because her art seemed so cool – I wasn’t a huge fan of her being viewed as unreliable. It reminded me of The Girl on the Train, and it was especially annoying because she’s clearly not unreliable from the reader’s perspective. I also thought Hen and Matthew’s spouses served no purpose other than to get in the way and prevent any sexual tension between the two main characters. I didn’t care for either one of them. Honestly, the character I found myself liking the most was Matthew, who is a murderer. And I’m not sure that was supposed to happen.
★★★☆☆ – Before She Knew Him is a solid thriller. I’m not sure why none of the twists shocked me, but I still liked them. If you enjoyed The Girl on the Train or Behind Her Eyes, I would recommend this one.
Before She Knew Him is available in bookstores now. You can order a copy on Amazon.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Before She Knew Him as one of your two free books.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission for purchases made through this post.*