BOOK REVIEW | BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM BY PETER SWANSON (SPOILER FREE)


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson
Pages: 391
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Published date: 5 March 2019


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. (Source: Goodreads



The best way going into a thriller, is to go blindly and you will not regret it. Hence, this review will be spoiler free. 

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson is about a married couple, Hen and Lloyd who just moved into a new house outside Boston, Massachusetts. There, they met another married couple next door at a party. They bonded over the common ground they shared; not wanting to have kids. Hen and Lloyd were invited for a dinner at their neighbour’s house. And that was when it all went wrong. Hen noticed a fencing trophy which was missing from a crime scene a few years ago atop their neighbour’s office shelf. One question went instantly through Hen’s mind, was her neighbour a murderer? 


The story starts off quick. I love it when books begin their main plot exactly at chapter 1 without unnecessary tangents. As soon as Hen found the fencing trophy, we, the readers were left wondering how does she know about it? Does she have any connection to the past crime? The questions invoked, kept us turning to the next page.

The story flows smoothly throughout the book. It was not dragged or stretched out. Everything that happened, happens for a reason. I found the plot twist shocking. I didn’t even expect the plot twist at the last chapter. 

The murderer in this book killed men who harassed women. What I love about it was I did wonder whether the murderer was delusional or the victims were really guilty of a crime with no evidence. 

Hen has Bipolar Disorder with a past conviction which makes her statement unreliable. So, whatever she reported to the police, her words will not be taken seriously. She was the only witness of a murder, yet there was nothing she could do to make people believe her. Even her husband thought she was manic.


I love how Peter Swanson crafted Hen as someone with drawing as a passion. Even her drawings were mostly influenced by her condition. In my opinion, this adds more flesh to Hen and she felt more realistic. Being in her mind wasn’t frustrating because she wasn’t stupid and made reckless decision. 

I would recommend you to read Before She Knew Him if you want to try out Peter Swanson. This is one of his best works. If you’re new to him, keep in mind that his writing can come off as straightforward and a little info dump-y. However, since I have read 5 of his books so far, it doesn’t bother me. 

Rate: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

3 Comments

  1. tertarik betul saya dengan ekor kucing tu hahaha

    ReplyDelete
  2. heheheh.. kucing pun nk jgk tu.. pandai dia tau2 tuan dia nk masuk dlm blog..

    ReplyDelete