REVIEW: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, BY PETER SWANSON

 

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. . .

My Thoughts: Before She Knew Him is a fascinating character study with alternating voices. We first meet Hen after she and her husband Lloyd have moved into their new neighborhood. After meeting next door neighbors Matthew and Mira, the two join them for dinner. Discovering the sports trophy in Matthew’s office sets Hen off on an obsessive journey, one that she has been on before.

Her past, with some psychotic behavior, reminds her that her current behavior is like a red flag warning her not to follow this path. But she is unable to steer clear, even following and stalking Matthew.

When we join Matthew’s perspective, we learn a lot about his own obsessions…and how he is also fascinated by Hen and her art. He senses that she is a kindred spirit, and draws her into his dark mind.

What will happen to the two of them, and will their knowledge of each other take them on an even darker journey? How will the journey into Matthew’s past take Hen into the world of another character? Will that discovery reveal unexpected things? And how will the frightening path lead Hen into a time before she had met Matthew, showing a deeper connection? A gripping 5 star read.

***

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