Primary Genre(s): Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Published: 5 Mar 2019 by William Morrow
Page count: 309
My Format: Audiobook via Overdrive
Cover: Vintage feel
Ending: Great twist, solid end
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: Buy on Amazon
My rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis 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.
I can’t believe it! I have now read two great thrillers in a row! Hopefully my streak continues! Here are my pros and cons about Before She Knew Him:
- The synopsis was written well and definitely intrigued me enough to read this book.
- The incorporation of Hen’s mental health issues along with the potential of a murderer living next door was a solid premise and a fantastic way of creating ambiguity in the story. Was she imagining things? Was she right? What is going on!?!? One of my greatest fears is someone not believing me about something, particularly something serious or life-threatening, when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right! Perhaps that is why I felt connected to this story so much!
- I love how right away you actually know what is going on… or do you? Plenty of information is given up front and just when you start to feel like you know the direction the book is going… BAM! You are wrong!!!
- I did not figure out the twist before it was revealed. Bravo to the author for that! I almost NEVER reread books, but the twist in this one makes me want to go back and reread it to find those clues I missed the first time around!
- The ending!!! OMG! The ending was super creepy.
- Matthew’s characterization was impressive. The slow reveal of his past was extremely well done in my opinion.
- Great pacing and crisp writing.
- The audiobook version was great.
- Now that I know the ending, there are some parts of the story that don’t quite make sense to me– particularly with regard to Mira and Richard’s relationship. I hate that I can’t give specifics here, but suffice it to say that most people won’t remember these conflicting details and they didn’t ruin the book for me overall. However, while I am impressed with the twist at the end, I think there were at least a few situations in the book that didn’t support the twist and I am a bit surprised that the author would leave potential plot conflicts in the story (unless it was purposeful so you wouldn’t guess the twist in advance and I really hope that wasn’t the case).
- Some would argue that the characters were stereotypical – unreliable woman with mental health issues, odd neighbor with bad childhood/upbringing, unfaithful husband, oblivious wife – and technically they would be right. However, if everyone was boring and perfect in a story then then it wouldn’t be as exciting, would it?
This book was a fantastic, fast read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that loves a solid psychological thriller. I had a few issues with the story, as I noted above, but ultimately it didn’t detract from the overall experience for me.
This is the second Peter Swanson book I’ve read and I thought they were both great reads. I’m adding him to my “must read authors” list now for sure! Read my review of his other book – The Kind Worth Killing – if you are interested.
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