Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

The Blurb On The Back:

Following a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend, Kate Priddy makes an uncharacteristically bold decision after her cousin, Corbin Dell, suggests a temporary apartment swap – and she moves from London to Boston.

But soon after her arrival Kate makes a shocking discovery: Corbin’s next-door neighbour, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered.  When the police begin asking questions about Corbin’s relationship with Audrey, and his neighbours come forward with their own suspicions, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own.

Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination playing out her every fear, Kate can barely trust herself, so how can she trust any of the strangers she’s just met? 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

For the last five years Kate Priddy has suffered from panic attacks, claustrophobia and anxiety because her university boyfriend attacked her after she broke up with him, locking her in a closet before committing suicide.  Slowly, she’s been rebuilding her life so when her cousin, Corbin Dell (a financier who works in Boston) asks her if she’s interested in swapping flats for 6 months as his office wants to send him to London, she takes the chance to do it as she can study for a graphic design course while she’s out there.

But shortly after her arrival at Corbin’s fabulous apartment in Beacon Hill, she discovers that his next-door-neighbour, Audrey Marshall, has been brutally murdered.  The self-possessed Detective James is investigating and wants to know more about Corbin and whether he knew Audrey but he claims they barely spoke and in any event, was already flying to London at the time Audrey was killed.  Kate is inclined to believe him but when she meets a neighbour Alan Cherney who tells her that Corbin and Audrey were in a relationship, a claim echoed by Audrey’s friend, Jack Ludovico.

Shaken, Kate decides to start looking into Corbin’s life but she’s alone in a strange city and unsure who she can trust – not even herself …

Peter Swanson’s standalone psychological thriller is a hackneyed affair that’s driven by hackneyed coincidence, implausible characters, a deeply misguided romance with a peeping tom and a deeply silly plot that nods at STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and although I believed in the main character’s anxiety (which is well depicted), she’s very much a victim all the way through the plot, which made it impossible for me to empathise with her.

Swanson does do well with depicting Kate’s mental health issues, especially her anxiety and panic attacks and how that makes her doubt herself but he saddles her with an overblown backstory (George is especially two-dimensional to the extent that I couldn’t believe she didn’t see his controlling behaviour from the off).  It doesn’t help that the jump off point for the story – the flat swap – is a hackneyed device, especially given the emotional distance between Corbin and Kate who we’re meant to believe are close enough to be happy to swap flats but distant enough to know next to nothing about each other’s lives.  On top of this, Kate is saddled with a potential love interest in Alan, who’s rapidly revealed to be a creepy peeping Tom (the origins of which are shown in a particularly distasteful flashback).  Most egregious though is the fact that Kate is nothing more than a victim from the start of the book to the end and the final twist is so obvious that I found myself really annoyed that she hadn’t sussed what was going on a lot sooner.

Pacing wise, the book also suffers from the fact that Swanson overlaps the narration by switching points of view so that you get heavy handed doses of each character’s backstory.  This is particularly noticeable with the Corbin sections (which I won’t spoil but which rapidly reveal what’s really going on) but also those sections told from the antagonist’s point of view (which make them sound like the token psycho of the week).

Ultimately I just found this a really silly read that left me uncaring of any of the characters or their predicaments and to be honest, based on this I won’t rush to read Swanson’s other work.

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