Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Book Review: HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear

Title: Her Every Fear
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Read: December 2016
Expected publication: 19 January 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Trading apartments with her Boston cousin seemed like a good idea to Kate. She might finally shake off the nightmares that have haunted her. On arrival, she discovers that the woman in the next apartment has been brutally murdered. Kate’s worst fears are about to be realized, as the police come to suspect her cousin as the killer. There are other bodies in his past that she has yet to learn of.

HER EVERY FEAR is a classic nail-biter about a troubled young woman in jeopardy. This novel echoes those of Patricia Highsmith at her best.

My thoughts:

Some may think that Kate Priddy is a “glass-half-empty” person, who always anticipates the worst possible scenario. But after having suffered a brutal attack at the hands of her ex-lover which nearly cost her her life, Kate knows that her fears are often justified.
“Bad things happen to me. Bad people happen to me.”
So it is with some trepidation that Kate agrees to a 6-months house swap with her American cousin Corbin, whom she has never met. Soon after her arrival in Boston, Kate’s worst fears are once again confirmed when a woman in the neighbouring flat is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Initially believing this to be a tragic but unrelated event, Kate is alarmed to find links between the dead woman and Corbin, who is now living in her apartment in London and denies having had any contact with the dead woman apart from innocent neighbourly encounters.  At the same time, strange things are happening in Kate’s life – she is sure that things have been moved out of place in the flat and that her artwork has been tampered with. Initially writing off these incidences as manifestations of her own anxiety and growing paranoia, Kate becomes increasingly worried that Corbin was somehow involved in the events leading to his neighbour’s death.  By staying in the apartment, is Kate putting her own life in danger?

I loved the premise of Her Every Fear, and it proved to be a tense, suspenseful and unputdownable psychological thriller, giving me goose bumps and fully living up to all of my expectations.  Apart from serving up true-to-life, believable characters, Swanson very cleverly incorporates other features into this often creepy tale of murder and depravity, like Sanders the cat, who is instrumental to the storyline in a way you won’t suspect. Thus setting the atmosphere and letting the characters do the rest of the work, the book played out like a black and white Hitchcockian movie in my head. There is a dark and chilly undercurrent of menace and danger running through the entire book, often escalating in seemingly innocent observations that, in the context of the story, sent shivers down my spine:

“She noticed a slight indentation on the blanket, and looked closer. There were white hairs – Sander’s hairs – and Kate pressed her hand on the bed; it was still a little warm from where he had his afternoon nap. That was why the door was ajar.”

Other scenes will pray on your most innermost fears of having your private spaces invaded by evil – I would love to give a couple of examples but will refrain from doing so in case it gives away spoilers. Let me just say that one of them involves Kate’s toothbrush -  ugh! Her Every Fear is not an action packed or particularly fast moving thriller – here the thrills are packaged in the everyday, the mundane, the places you would never expect them to lurk, taking you back to your most basic fears, like Kate’s journey down the back stairs into the basement of the house. For me this was the best thing about the book: the spine tingling moments of anticipation and terror sneaking up on me where I least expected them. As for the characters – can you really trust any of them? Even Kate herself, who may (or may not) be an unreliable narrator due to her anxiety and paranoia may not always give a true account of events. Even Sanders was a bit suspicious, and he is a cat!

I was worried that the tension would be broken, the mystery spoiled, by the introduction of the villain, but Swanson even manages to pull this off perfectly. There aren’t many novels where exploring the mind of a depraved killer works so well – Swanson has managed to strike the right balance between allowing us a peek into the killer’s mind without giving too much away or pushing the novel over the thin line of “too much information”. A rare skill indeed, and one which made this a stand-out read for me to cap off 2016.

Her Every Fear was an excellent read, a must for every lover of true psychological thrillers that mess with your mind and haunt you long after the last page has been turned.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Image result for 4.5 stars

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