Book Review: Before She Knew Him

When married couple Lloyd Harding and Hen "Henrietta" Mazur, newly moved to the seamy Boston suburbs, are invited by their neighbours Mira and Matthew Dolamore for a friendly dinner, a tour of the house culminates in a shocker after Hen spots a sports trophy that looks exactly like one that was taken from Dustin Miller's home, a college student who was brutally murdered two years ago and who attended the high school where Matthew teaches History. While Matthew dismisses it as a knick-knack he purchased at a yard sale, Hen, having obsessively followed the case and realising she may be onto something, decides to pay a quick follow-up visit the next day, only to find the trophy missing, reinforcing her suspicions. But when she voices her concerns, neither Lloyd nor the local police seem to take her seriously given her history of mental problems and falsely accusing others of murder, leaving her to get to the bottom of it all, even as she develops an uneasy equation with Matthew. Peter Swanson, like he did in The Kind Worth Killing and Her Every Fear, is at his best when he explores psychological themes of depression and trauma, but the narrative high the story reaches mid-way succumbs to unsatisfactory plot twists, giving it a justification, although relevant in today's #MeToo era, doesn't yield any new insights. Before She Knew Him however fares a cut above most page-turners, putting emphasis on the "why" rather than "who" that's by turns dark and a swiftly-paced suspenser.