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Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew Him

by Peter Swanson

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Quick take

The suburban neighbor's guide to dealing with the sociopath next door.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Scary


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues


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. . .

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Before She Knew Him.
Before She Knew Him

Part 1: Witness

Chapter 1

The two couples met at a neighborhood block party, the third Saturday in September.

Hen hadn’t wanted to go, but Lloyd convinced her. “It’s just down the street. If you hate it, you can turn around and come straight back.”

“That’s exactly what I can’t do,” Hen said. “I need to stay at least an hour or else people will notice.”

“They really won’t.”

“They really will. I can’t just look around at my new neighbors, then turn and leave.”

“I’m not going if you don’t go.”

“Fine,” Hen said, calling his bluff, knowing that he’d go alone if pressed.

Lloyd was silent for a moment. He was in front of the living room bookshelf, rearranging. They had closed on a single-family in West Dartford at the beginning of July, during one of the worst heat waves in Massachusetts history. Two months later, the weather had cooled, and Hen was beginning to feel that the house was theirs. The furniture was all in the right rooms, paintings were hung on the wall, and Vinegar, their Maine coon, had started to occasionally come up from the basement where he’d been hiding.

“What if I ask you to come with me as a favor?”

Favor was an unacknowledged code word between them, a gambit Lloyd usually used only when Hen was unwell. In the past, it was how he sometimes roused her from the bed in the morning.

“Don’t do it for you. Do it for me. It’s a favor.”

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Why I love it

Now that I’ve read Before She Knew Him, all I want to do is talk about it. Only I can’t. Not because there isn’t anything to say (there’s plenty.) And not because the book is bad (it’s so good.) I can’t talk about it because I don’t want to risk giving away a single one of its many surprises.

Here’s what I can tell you: When Hen—short for Henrietta—and her husband, Lloyd, move into a new house, they quickly meet Matthew and Mira, the only other childless couple in the neighborhood. While having dinner at the neighbors’ house, Hen lays eyes on a peculiar object that ties Matthew to an unsolved murder from years before. Is Hen’s neighbor a killer? Or is her bipolar disorder, something she’s struggled with in the past, returning to mess with her fragile mind once more?

Sounds like a book with an ending you can see coming after turning the first page. It’s not. At all. Before She Knew Him is deeper, darker, and more twisted than it seems. Once you read it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. And why I absolutely can’t tell you any more right now.

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Member ratings (17,097)

  • Sydney F.

    Hutchinson, MN

    I personally love mystery/thriller/intense books. I usually don’t like when books jump from character to character, but it only made me more “in the know” with what was going on. Page turner for sure!

  • Mary M.

    Chicago , IL

    Definitely a page turner. Psychological thriller with many twists and turns. I enjoyed Peter Swanson’s “The Kind Worth Killing” so I was looking forward to reading this book. It did not disappoint!

  • Christine K.

    Grovetown, GA

    What a wild ride! This was a refreshing change from “whodunnit” to “when will he be caught?” Are all of Swanson’s books this good?! I’m disappointed that I let this sit on my shelf for so long.

  • Brittany S.

    Sacramento, CA

    When I started this book I thought I already knew everything; Mathew is the killer,okay What now? Well I was pleasantly surprised, lots of twists I didn’t see coming! 5 stars from me I’d recommend it!

  • Barbara A.

    Ogdensburg, NJ

    I’m not one to review a book...ever...so the fact that I am says a lot. I was hooked from the beginning of the story and didn’t want to put it down. The twists were not forced and I highly recommend!

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