Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson: Book Review

Before She Knew Him  by Peter Swanson
Published March 5, 2019 by William Morrow
320 Pages

From Publisher: 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 . . .

My Thoughts: I should probably apologize in advance for this extremely vague review BUT this is most definitely a book you don’t want to know much about going in. Trust me. Also, I loved/hated this book so rather than be super confusing with my details as to why I’ll just give you a quick overview.

As I said, I loved this book so much…up until I didn’t.  For much of the book,  I couldn’t wait to pick this back up when life intervened. But then a plot development happened and I’ll admit, I got pretty mad.

Hen and her husband Lloyd are new in the neighborhood and have been invited to their neighbor’s house for a party. When Hen notices a statue on the shelf in their den, she’s convinced it belonged to a boy who was murdered years ago. A case Hen had previously been completely obsessed with. You see, Hen has her own mental health issues but she’s determined to find out if her neighbor Matthew is a killer. 

I absolutely love how 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 couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see how it all played out. Until one major plot point left me feeling manipulated on such a level that rather than feeling like oh you totally got me I felt angry about what I believed to be pure gimmick. This had been such an intricate, interesting story up until that point. When I read thrillers I don’t mind being kept in the dark and being surprised by the resolution (in fact I prefer it) but I don’t want to feel tricked by the author’s use of a gimmick and that’s how this one left me feeling. I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give a single detail away. Read this for yourself and see what you think, then message me to discuss. Overall,  this was an addictive, page turning read but I was disappointed in the end. 

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review 

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Monday Reading Update

 

Hi All! Hope you had a good weekend. We’re still waiting for warmer weather here in Ohio, so in the meantime I’ve been taking advantage of reading under my favorite cozy blanket. I had a SUPER productive reading week last week, finishing 3 books, 2 of which I really liked although none were 5 star reads…close but not quite.

RECENTLY READ…

The River   was way more literary than I expected. I don’t mean that in a bad way because the writing was excellent but I thought it would be more thriller like and it really wasn’t. I appreciated the author’s obvious knowledge of canoeing on a river and wilderness survival along with his ability to create extremely realistic scenes. I wanted to read this book because I love nature and stories about wilderness survival because I would never ever want to go camping or rafting on a river…ever. I felt like I was there while reading this story though. However, I thought there was something lacking. I’m not sure if it was the third person narration which made me feel less connected to either Wynn or Jack but I was left feeling underwhelmed when I should’ve felt several other emotions.

Before She Knew Him was one of my most anticipated winter reads and it definitely ended up being addictive reading. I love how Swanson writes characters who are wacky and completely in your face about it! BUT, I ended up having thoughts…many thoughts…I’ll have a review up soon.

The Last Act was a such a fast paced, action filled read. The blurb for this contained so many of my favorite buzz words (FBI, prison, undercover, ) I knew I would love it…and I did. Review up (hopefully) tomorrow for pub day

 

TRIED BUT WASN’T FEELING…

American Spy also had so many of my favorite buzz words in the publisher blurb…espionage, spy thriller, FBI, passionate romance and betrayal…yes please! After the opening scene, however, the plot quickly fizzled for me with WAY too much telling and a second person narrative structure I didn’t like.

 

CURRENTLY READING…

The Devil Aspect  came on my radar after I saw Katie’s review at Basicbsguide  on Instagram. This creepy story centering around the “criminally insane” sounds like something I’ll love. I’ve just started it but I can say it’s drawn me in from the first page. Let’s hope my luck with quality thriller reads continues!

POSSIBLE NEXT READS…

    OR  

I think I’m about ready for a thriller break before I start having nightmares about all the psychopaths I’ve been reading about! Both of these sound promising and would be much lighter reads.

Did you read anything great last week? Have anything that sounds amazing coming up? Let me know in the comments!

Have a Great Week!!

MINI-REVIEWS: A JANE CASEY BINGE

I’m officially obsessed with the Maeve Kerrigan series! You may remember I decided to jump into this series back in March, starting with book 3, The Last Girl. You can find my review here if you missed it. I knew I wanted to continue on with book 4 but other books were calling so it wasn’t until last week that I decided to pick up The Stranger You Know….5 days later I had binged that, The Kill (book 5) and After the Fire (book 6) and boy was that fun! Can you say super late night reading and being a zombie the next day? Totally worth it though because I literally cannot get enough of these characters and I immediately headed to Book Depository (I can’t wait until July for US publication) to order Let the Dead Speak…I’m currently stalking my mailbox daily waiting for it to arrive.  Read on and see what you think of this binge-worthy series….

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Published May 2014 By Minotaur Books, book 4

He meets women. He gains their trust. He kills them. That’s all London police detective Maeve Kerrigan knows about the man she is hunting. Three women have been strangled in their homes, and it appears to be the work of the same sadistic killer. With no sign of break-ins, every indication shows that the women let their attacker in willingly. The victims’ neighbors and friends don’t seem to remember anything unusual or suspicious, and Maeve is almost at a loss about how to move forward with the investigation.

Then the evidence starts to point to a shocking suspect: DCI Josh Derwent, Maeve’s partner on the police force. Maeve refuses to believe he could be involved, but how well does she really know him?

******

Maeve is back and this time the murder investigation into the deaths of three different women hits close to home…with her partner and supervisor DI Josh Derwent falling under suspicion. You see, there was a murder in Derwent’s past and along with learning the details of that long ago crime, we also get to know him so much better and I for one was thrilled by this plot development! I haven’t had a book boyfriend since Mark Joesbury from Sharon Bolton’s Lacey Flint series and then along comes Derwent and I find myself really loving him despite his often sexist and vulgar comments…who knew?! He has made me laugh on more than one occasion so maybe that plays a part:) As Maeve and her colleagues dig deeper into Derwent’s past, they also have the present murders of the three women looming…could they all somehow be connected? You’ll have to read to find out! I had my suspicions about the who but I couldn’t figure out the why and I really shouldn’t have tried because Jane Casey managed to spin an extra twisty tale here that threw me for the best possible loop. So, along with a murder to solve, Maeve also has personal drama and behind the scenes office politics & secrets to deal with…this story has a little bit of everything and it comes together beautifully in the end. Oh and the Maeve and Derwent banter in this book…the best!

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Published June 2015 By Minotaur Books, book 5

Detective Maeve Kerrigan is away for a colleague’s wedding, and she’s enjoying an excuse to spend a beautiful fall weekend relaxing in the English countryside. It’s a much-needed break from the grit and grime of her daily life on the London police force. But even at a wedding, the job is never far away.

Midway through the reception, Maeve and her abrasive but loyal partner on the police force, DI Josh Derwent, are called back to London. A fellow policeman has been murdered, in a compromising position in a public park at night. And when Maeve and Derwent arrive to speak with the victim’s family, his wife and daughter are surprisingly cold and reticent, which adds further layers of complexity to an already delicate investigation. And Maeve knows the victim and his family aren’t the only ones with things to hide: the dark secret that her boss, Superintendent Godley, has been keeping for years is threatening to blow up in his face, and if that happens, they’ll all be caught in the aftermath.

******

I really loved the idea of Maeve getting a much needed break at the start of this book when she’s at her colleague’s wedding. I know I completely gush about Derwent but I really like Maeve! She’s tough, super smart, and sarcastic, yet also feminine and I love getting to know her outside of her job. She has the best insight into herself as she often knows what she’s about to say or do isn’t going to go well for her but she’ll do it anyway. While enjoying time off the job at the wedding, there’s a very interesting scene between Derwent and Maeve (hint..it involves dancing) that literally left me breathless…I think Jane Casey wants my head to explode over these two characters!! Soon enough, however, the job intervenes and they return to London to investigate the murder of a policeman. This murder is not at all what it seems and worry starts to build that other police officers may be targeted as well. Then, we have Maeve’s on-going cat & mouse with her stalker from a previous book, her continued love/hate relationship with Derwent, her relationship crisis with Rob, as well as Superintendent Godley’s secrets coming back to haunt him…all in all there’s drama and suspense coming from every angle and I loved every second of it.

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Published May, 2016 By Minotaur Books, book 6

London police detective Maeve Kerrigan has spent plenty of time at Murchison House. One of the many cement high-rise towers comprising the Maudling Estate housing project, Murchison Tower is home to a motley mix of society. From domestic abuse victims and elderly widows with nowhere else to turn to its flourishing criminal elements, Maeve is familiar with many of its occupants by name or reputation. But when a fire breaks out at Murchison House that consumes the top floors and leaves three dead, Maeve and her colleagues are startled to learn the identity of one of the victims.  

******

Jane Casey manages to out do herself with each book because the concept for the mystery in this one was brilliant! Picture a high rise, run down apartment complex filled with people harboring many secrets. When a fire breaks out and several of these people are killed or injured, the question soon becomes whether this was a case of arson?  Not only is the list of possible arson suspects long, but since there were several people killed and injured, questions also arise as to who was actually being targeted? Right from the start I was completely drawn into this mystery, especially since this is a place that holds bad memories for Maeve. She not only has her hands full with this investigation but her personal life with Rob is in shambles, her stalker has intensified, and her own mental health seems to be taking a nosedive. And you can feel ALL of this coming at you full speed through the pages as Casey’s writing creates such vividly drawn, authentic characters who just feel so completely REAL. The regular characters have a genuineness to them, as well as the characters we meet in this investigation. That’s the genius of Jane Casey at work here and by the end of this story she delivers a jab to my heart *sob* with a death I didn’t see coming. Not only that, but I managed to be wrong (yet again) about the mystery and I’m completely beside myself as to where she’s taking Maeve and Derwent personally! Have I mentioned I love Derwent? He continues to be the wittybad boy who can occasionally show a softer side and I’m convinced there’s more to his feelings for Maeve than meets the eye. And vice versa. Or is that my own wishful thinking?? I’m eagerly awaiting Let the Dead Speak so I can (hopefully) find out. In the meantime, Jane Casey please continue writing this amazingly addictive series with as much Derwent as you can possibly squeeze in:)

What do you think? Are you tempted to jump into this awesome series?  Who are your favorite book boyfriends, I’d love to know for when Book 7 causes the inevitable book hangover and I need someone to fill Derwent’s spot for the summer, so drop me a quick line in the comments:)   

HAPPY READING! 

REVIEW: SINCE WE FELL By Dennis Lehane

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Published May 16, 2017 By Ecco Books

Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths. By turns heart- breaking, suspenseful, romantic, and sophisticated, Since We Fell is a novel of profound psychological insight and tension. It is Dennis Lehane at his very best. 

******

I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with blurbs lately but I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with the one above, especially because in the grand scope of the whole book it’s actually very vague and a little misleading in the best possible way. Confused yet? Good, because part of the fun of reading this book is feeling slightly confused as to where Dennis Lehane is taking you. If you’ve read any of his books you’ll know, as I did…it’s going SOMEWHERE and it’s possibly going to come out of the blue and knock your socks off!

I went into this novel having no preconceived notions and really no idea what it was about; in fact, I sought out Sonya from Ecco Books and begged for a copy solely on the fact that it’s DENNIS LEHANE and I’ve loved every single book of his I’ve read as well as the movies that have been made based on them. I didn’t care what it was about I just wanted to read it! So here’s where it gets interesting…I’ve been on bad terms lately with psychological thrillers…we’re just not getting along for many reasons.  I just don’t enjoy unlikeable, unreliable narrators, gimmicky plot lines, twists that come out of nowhere just for the sake of being a big “twist,”etc and that’s what the genre has seemed to me to be a lot of lately.  So, I was a little worried going into THIS psychological thriller but let me tell you, all my worry vanished when I started reading!

I’ll start with the prologue…fantastic!! If you’ve read Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard, it reminded me a little of that which is to say, it starts off with things going very wrong for certain characters and as the reader I knew I needed to find out what led to that and why. Then we get to know Rachel Childs, a journalist who has not had the greatest relationship with her mother, ends up working her way up at the Boston Globe, falls in love (kind of), and goes in search of her long lost biological father. The entire first half of the book centers around Rachel as well as her immediate friends and family. I had no problem with this per se because Dennis Lehane’s writing is phenomenal…it’s astute, engaging, lyrical…and I was rapt to find out more about Rachel as I LIKED her and there was this faint voice in my head whispering the whole time…is she for real?…what are we not seeing/hearing accurately about her? But doubts started to creep in and at the 50% mark on my kindle, I said to myself…Oh no, this is going to end up being my first Lehane book that’s just going to be good but not great…he’s wrote a really good character driven study but that’s not what I expected from him….I mean is this story going anywhere? Then, literally, by 51%, the tide turned and boy did it ever! Lehane went from 0-90 and never looked back with the next half of the book and I couldn’t have been happier! I read the rest like a speed demon, having absolutely no idea where it was going but what a fun ride it was.

I won’t say anything more about the remainder of the plot but what I WILL say is thank you to Dennis Lehane for restoring my faith in psychological thrillers. I knew I could still love them. In my opinion, this is what a psych thriller is all about…and he did it without jumping back and forth between multiple narrators or timelines. Amazing!

Many thanks to Sonya Cheuse and James Faccinto at Ecco Books for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review