Before She Knew Him

Before She Knew Him

by Peter Swanson


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

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes 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 . . .

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. . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062838162
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/25/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 19,263
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. He lives outside of Boston, where he is at work on his next novel.

Customer Reviews

Before She Knew Him: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it in 2 days. Was totally addicted and couldn't put it down!
Honolulubelle 20 days ago
Favorite Quotes: “I was sure it was schizophrenia,” her mother said, driving Hen back to upstate New York, “because of your uncle. But turns out you’re just bat@* crazy like everyone else in this family.” She’d laughed, then apologized. It was what she did. Matthew tried hard to discern if he was actually handsome, but found it hard to do. All men looked alike to him. They either had fox faces or pig faces. He walked the short distance to the steps that led to Hen’s porch, then stopped. “Can I come up?” he asked, and Hen thought of vampires, how they needed to be invited in. My Review: Holy arboretum, Batman - that was a gnarly and dreadfully diseased family tree that made the roots of my contaminated ancestry appear glossy with vitality. This tautly written missive was my introduction to the twisted and formidable brilliance of Peter Swanson and I was absorbed, enthralled, riveted, and transfixed. The little pea in my brain was on fire with wild synapses firing and misfiring in all directions while I conjured my paltry theories. I must confess to my cranial inferiority and bow to the master as I never could have put this ingenious plot together. What a clever trickster! The duplicitous Mr. Swanson took me down a dark and convoluted road, although I don’t seem to mind being made a fool. In fact, I’d do it all over again, and plan to, as soon as possible. Mr. Swanson seems to have a rabid fangirl on his hands.
lynguy1 3 months ago
BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM by Peter Swanson is a great psychological thriller. Henrietta (Hen) Mazur and her husband Lloyd Harding have just moved into a new house near Boston, Massachusetts. Hen is an illustrator and has found a studio within walking distance. She also seems to have her bipolar disorder under control with the right meds. When their next door neighbors Matthew and Mira Dolamore invite them over for dinner Hen notices a sports trophy that looks similar to one that disappeared when a young man in their old neighborhood was murdered. Is Hen imagining things or is there something sinister going on? Hen is a character that you can root for. She felt read and had depth. Her internal and external conflicts were well defined and believable. They arose out of characterization and circumstance rather than feeling contrived or forced. The title was intriguing and very fitting. The prose was well-written and compelling. The plot was intense, suspenseful, shocking , absorbing, and definitely kept me engaged. The ending was unexpected with some real surprises. Overall, this book was a fabulous read. I won a digital copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks go to Goodreads, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to provide an honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
TiBookChatter 3 months ago
Smart, clever, and hard to put down. I don’t know where I’ve been or why I haven’t read Peter Swanson before but I am so very glad that Before She Knew Him made it into my hands. Hen and Lloyd move to very nice, suburban neighborhood. Their neighbors, Mira and Matthew invite them over to dinner so they can get to know one another and while there, Hen can’t help but notice a fencing trophy on the mantle. Upon closer inspection, she’s almost positive it once belonged to a young man named Dustin. A young man who was murdered not long ago. Why would this couple have it in their house? Before She Knew Him was a great read. Smartly written with well-developed characters and a story that includes a surprise or two and enough mystery to keep you guessing. This book could easily have been titled “Neighbors with Secrets” because both of these couples have something to hide and it makes for really good reading. I highly recommend this one. Swanson uses all of the characters to tell this story and it’s so very good.
Twink More than 1 year ago
See what I mean by twisted? What a premise! Hen is a decidedly unreliable narrator. She doesn't act or follow the path I thought she would have , given her discovery. And this is what I like about Swanson's writing - the not knowing what's going to happen next. I should be afraid for Hen right? Nope, she's a little bit scary herself....And the neighbour? He's uber creepy - and a high school teacher to boot. Swanson has come up with some fantastic last minute twists in the final chapters of previous books and does so again in Before She Knew Him. Didn't see it coming - and not sure I love it, but I was indeed surprised. Swanson's writing makes for addictive reading. Creepy, crawly good.
tschnitzler More than 1 year ago
Intriguing read! Shortly after Hen and Lloyd, they find new friends in their neighborhood right next door. Initially believing they had something in common with this couple, Hen and Lloyd accept a dinner invitation to Mira and Matthew's home. Things go downhill quickly after the dinner, and I found myself trying to decide if Hen was losing it or if what she has seen is indeed true. As the story continues, I went back and forth between "seriously?" and "oh wow". Quick, interesting read.
MamaHendo More than 1 year ago
Meeting your neighbors shouldn't put your life in danger but that's exactly what happens when Hen & Lloyd sit down for dinner with Mira & Matthew. Being the only two childless couples on their street, they decide to get together one Saturday evening. Matthew & Mira seem genuinely interested in Hen's art but Lloyd can't seem to click with their hosts. After dinner Mira invites them on a tour of their home. While in Matthew's study something catches Hen's eye. A trophy from a Junior Olympics fencing competition is displayed front and center on the mantle. Something sparks in Hen's brain, wasn't the man who was murdered recently on that same team? After questioning Matthew where it came from and receiving a strange reply, Hen begins to fixate on the idea that her neighbor could be a murderer. Is she in danger or on the verge of another mental breakdown? Peter Swanson has written a true page turning thriller. "Before She Knew Him" is filled with twists and turns that will leave any mystery fan saying 'just one more chapter'.
PattySmith87 More than 1 year ago
Many thanks to NetGalley, Faber and Faber and Peter Swanson for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advance copy. What we have here is a good old fashioned psychological thriller that finally lives up to the hype. I’m late in the game for Peter Swanson books but now that I have read this one, I’m checking out all his other books. Wow, can he write. Great characters, clear storyline with lots of surprises and a build up of suspense that propels you forward until the end. You almost want to slow it down, draw it out because even though you want to know what happens, you don’t want it to be over. There are lots of places you can read a recap of the story, and they do a much better job than I would be able to do so please go and check those out. I’m just going to lay it out a bit differently. You have the main character Hen. She is an artist who makes really creepy art, which ties in with her fascination with death and all things morbid. She also happens to be bi-polar and has, in the past, experienced manic episodes. Once she ended up hospitalized after she became obsessed with a neighbourhood boy’s murder. With her meds corrected and a move to a new area, she and her husband, Lloyd, are looking for a fresh start. I didn’t much care for Lloyd’s character, his personality didn’t seem to stand out one way or the other. He seems to be this perennial nice guy, that does everything right, supportive, loves his wife and has stood by her through her mental health issues. Then you have their neighbours, Mira and Matthew. Mira seems a little desperate to make friends, a little uncomfortable with her husband, and a lot insecure. Matthew is the other main character and Hen suspects him to be a murderer. We get to learn a lot about Matthew and what makes him tick. So, there were at least a couple of times that I though I had this story figured out. At first I almost didn’t finish it because I thought “Uch - here is one of those books where Hen will slowly descend into crazyville, no one will believe her because of her past, the murderer will play mind games with her and it will take the whole book to figure out that either Matthew or Mira is the murderer. But just when you think you have this book figured out, zup, left turn. Swanson takes us in a new direction. I so appreciated being kept on my toes. I figured out the last twist but it didn’t detract from the experience. It was dark, scary and thrilling. I found the main characters fully realized and complex and you get a sense of them as a whole person. As any good psychological thriller should, there was lots of suspense and fast paced action to keep you interested right to the end. Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. It is a really great read and something a little different than the normal fare, which is so refreshing. I really enjoyed it.
marykuhl More than 1 year ago
Hen knows her next door neighbor, Matthew, is a killer. But then she sees him kill and no one believes her. The story flowed, the characters were likable. First book I have read by this author, and I was not disappointed. There were some good, strong twists and turns I didn't see coming. I would definitely recommend.
AnnieRF More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Shelf-Awareness for an ARC of this book. Swanson tells the story of two couples who are neighbors - Lloyd and Hen are a couple newly arrived in the neighborhood and their next door neighbors Matthew and Mira. The book centers around the back and forth interactions of Matthew and Hen. Hen is an artist with a mental illness. Matthew is the neighbor she thinks committed a murder. Very early in the story the truth about the murder is revealed. The real story lies in the interactions between Hen and Matthew. The story is told from their perspectives as well as the perspectives of additional characters. Even though there are several perspectives used to advance the story line the author does a credible job of using them without getting bogged down. I enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick read that moved along well. It kept my interest throughout the story line although I did figure out the "twist" long before the ending. Even so it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a quick read that kept me hooked until the last page. Looking forward to reading this authors other books.
JennaBookish More than 1 year ago
My thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher.  Before She Knew Him is a quick and super creepy read. I will preface this review by saying that I think the synopsis is slightly misleading. It asks: "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?" You may be led to believe that there's some mystery surrounding whether or not Matthew is actually a murderer, and there truly isn't. The novel is told through multiple point of view characters, one of which is Matthew himself, so it is revealed very early on that Hen's suspicions about him are correct. So what's sort of framed in the synopsis as a mystery for the reader is more Hen's own internal struggle with herself and her struggle to be taken seriously as someone with a mental illness. Hen may remind readers a lot of Anna Fox from The Woman in the Window or Rachel Watson from The Girl on the Train. Mira, Matthew's wife, is also a point of view character for a few chapters, and these chapters were a lot of fun. It was interesting to see Matthew through her lens and watch how her impression of him slowly changed throughout the story.  Gendered violence is a major theme throughout the book; men who hurt women and men who hurt other men to protect women are central to most of the violence which occurs. Given the subject matter, I'd like to give a trigger warning for this novel in regards to sexual violence, with the caveat that it never becomes graphic or overly descriptive in this  regard. Overall, the story was fast-paced, deliciously creepy, and has just enough twists and turns to keep the reader super engaged without veering into ridiculousness. Swanson juggles various point of view characters without the novel feeling overly crowded or jumbled. I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of A. J. Finn or Paula Hawkins!
A-S More than 1 year ago
“Before she knew him” by Peter Swanson follows Hen and her husband Lloyd as they meet their new neighbors, Matthew and his wife---with Hen quickly becoming convinced that Matthew had something to do with an unsolved murder of a young man after she notices his old sports trophy in Matthew’s office. Hen’s reaction does not go unnoticed by Matthew. Meanwhile, as more victims come to light, Hen becomes convinced that her next door neighbor is a serial killer. The chapters are narrated by both Hen and Matthew, switching back and forth between them, as well as additional characters. Because of those narratives, both characters have a rich backstory, so what ends up propelling the plot is their confrontation of each other—the accused and the accuser. I found this to be a quick read, with dark memorable characters.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson is a highly recommended thriller with unreliable narrators. Hen (Henrietta) Mazur and her husband Lloyd Harding are settling into their new suburban home outside of Boston. It's a perfect location for Lloyd's commute and Hen's rented studio space nearby. Life seems to be going well for the couple, especially now that Hen is on the right medication to control her bi-polar disorder. When they meet and are invited over for dinner by their neighbors, Mira and Matthew Dolamore, the night is uneventful until Hen spots a fencing trophy in Matthew's study that she knows looks like one that belonged to a young man who was murdered two years before. Hen has been obsessed with this case and she knows the trophy went missing after the murder. Matthew works at the school where the murdered young man attended and he knows Hen suspects him of something, so he removes the trophy. This marks the start of Hen's obsession with Matthew and she begins to watch/stalk him. Is she having another psychotic episode, like the one she had during college, or is Matthew a killer? Hen talks to Lloyd and the police, but it is unclear if anyone believes her due to her history of mental health problems. Chapters alternate between the points-of-view of the characters. Clearly none of these people are reliable and it is difficult to ascertain if any of the characters can be trusted. None of these characters are likeable either, which can be a plus or minus. As you enter into their thought processes and actions, you aren't going to trust any of them. Hen's immediate visceral reaction to Matthew after seeing the trophy and promptly suspecting him of murder is odd and a pretty big hurdle. The characters are developed, although just to the extent that Swanson deems necessary for his narrative. Bad choices and bad decisions abound in these characters. The writing is quite good and held my attention, even through my disbelief. Swanson also manages to ratchet up the tension while building the suspense and keeping the atmosphere dark and disorientating. It is clear that something bad is going to come of all of this, it is just uncertain, with these flawed characters in what form or from whom the imminent nefarious deed will come. Swanson manages to pull it all together in the end and several of my questions and doubts were resolved. The ending is satisfying, but does enter a somewhat well-traveled twist. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fast, easy, entertaining read, filled with surprising twists/turns, even 1 last one on the last page! This was the 1st I read of P. Swanson, but he's on my 'to-read' I'll read more!
3no7 More than 1 year ago
“Before She Knew Him” by Peter Swanson poses the question “How well could you really know another person?” Henrietta, a full-time artist and illustrator of children’s books, is pleasant and likeable. Her life is good; she had a troubled past but had come through foul weather and torrential rain to stand there in the sun. Her current cocktail of meds keeps her bipolar disorder from rearing its ugly head, and now she has her own studio walking distance from home. Her husband Lloyd takes the commuter rail into Boston for his job in public relations. At a neighborhood block party, “Hen” and Lloyd meet Matthew and Mira Dolamore who live immediately next door. The couples became casual friends, and everyone seemed to be happy. Much later Hen would realize how wrong that first impression was. Matthew and Mira invite Hen and Lloyd over for dinner. The dinner conversation is normal, usual, perhaps boring, talk about jobs, the neighborhood, and other causal topics. Things change when Hen notices a trophy on the mantel, a fencing trophy. Later she shares her fears with Lloyd. “I’m not being paranoid or obsessive, and I don’t feel manic, but I know. Our neighbor killed Dustin Miller.” The story progresses with the point of view shifting between Hen and Matthew, and sometimes Mira Readers get to know each of them well and follow their thoughts, and observe the possible, the improbable, and the unthinkable, all from each point of view. However, are the views of these characters accurate or are people seeing murderers where there are none? Things turn, significantly, strangely, desperately, and readers are not even halfway through, when a different voice, a first person narrative, starts with even more twists, turns. and treachery. Characters want to pretend that nothing is wrong, but something is very, very wrong. Everyone has secrets; everyone is wrong about some things, and everyone is right about something else. Mira laments that “She had done what she wanted, and look what had happened. She had a psychotic neighbor now, out to get her husband.” Others share significant thoughts as well. “People are defined by their actions. What they do is who they are. ““Your husband made you do it.” And the most revealing comment of all, “I like to kill people.” “Before She Knew Him” is full of secrets -- personal secrets, private secrets, and shared secrets; those might be the most dangerous ones. I received a review copy of “Before She Knew Him” from Peter Swanson, and publishers William Morrow and Harper Collins. Swanson created tension on every page, and readers feel they are in on a secret, a frightening, and perilous secret. Just when readers think that nothing can be as strange as what has already happened, something even stranger happens, even on the last page.
Katie__B More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars I've now read all 5 of Peter Swanson's books, and this one is my second favorite, ranking just behind The Kind Worth Killing. It was disturbing but I didn't think it crossed into super uncomfortable territory when it's not even fun to read. I thought it was an entertaining read and really showcased some of the author's strengths as a writer. Hen and her husband Lloyd seek more of a quiet lifestyle and move into a neighborhood outside of Boston. They are invited over for dinner at their neighbors' house and Hen is horrified when she spots a sports trophy in the home that she is convinced belonged to a murder victim. Did Hen's neighbor Matthew have something to do with the unsolved murder or is she suffering from another psychotic episode like she had in college? One of the things I enjoy about the author is he is not afraid to shift gears in the middle of the story and go in a different direction. Most authors would have dragged this story out and you wouldn't find out until the very end if Hen was right about Matthew or not. Instead you get that answer fairly quickly and the rest of the story plays out in an unusual way. If you are a fan of Peter Swanson, you are no doubt aware that things are usually not quite as they seem in his stories and this one certainly is no exception. My only criticism of the book is I feel the big "OMG!" moment didn't have as big of an impact as it could have because too many hints were dropped along the way. In no way did that ruin the book for me but I am slightly disappointed I was able to correctly predict it. There were however other things in the story that did catch me off guard and it was nice to be surprised. Definitely recommend if you are a fan of the genre or have enjoyed some of the author's other novels. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a free advance copy! I'm not sure if I won this in a giveaway or some magical book fairy knew how much I wanted to read this book and granted me my wish. I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
booklover- More than 1 year ago
Hen (Henrietta) and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood. She is a children's book illustrator and works in a studio. She has a mental health problem but is on medications that seem to control the bipolar episodes. Her past medical history has included stays in a psychiatric hospital and lots of therapy. Meeting the new neighbors next door, everything seems to be going well. The couple, Mira and Matthew are also childless and they have a lot in common. Her calm comes to an end when she spots something on Matthew's office shelf. There sits an object that she thinks went missing with the murder of a young man who was killed two years ago. During her frenetic episodes years earlier she became obsessed with unsolved crimes. Could her neighbor 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? She spends time watching him, only to find him watching her. Is she in danger because of what she knows ... or is this just another part of her psychosis? This is a real page-turner with stand-out characters that are memorable. The story premise is a good one, with many twists and turns along the way to a surprising ending. Many thanks to the author/ William Morrow / Edelweiss for the advanced digital copy of this psychological thriller. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick enjoyable suspense.