Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: 'Her Every Fear' by Peter Swanson

Massachusetts author Peter Swanson, with degrees in Creative Writing, Education, and Literature from Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, has written three novels and has had his stories and poems appear in The Atlantic, Measure, Mysterical-E, Soundings East, The Vocabula Review, and Yankee Magazine.

Peter understands terror. For those readers who dote on finding books to dispel the concept that no one today can write about fear in the manner of an Hieronymus Bosch painting such as The Garden of Earthly Delights or Gustave DorĂ©'s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, welcome to Peter Swanson. His imagination is viral and his ability to explain the human psyche is astonishingly perceptive. From the first words of this brilliant new novel he sets in place that feeling of dissociative relationship between reality and nightmare as well as anyone writing. HER EVERY FEAR involves a young woman caught in a vise of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation, and murder.

Example – ‘Kate Priddy, who had never been to Boston and had no idea she would wind up in a tunnel under Boston Harbor, sat in the back of a stopped taxi cab and began to panic. It was not her first panic attack, not even of that particular day. She’d had one earlier that morning when she’d stepped outside of her flat in Belsize Park in London into a cold, gray dawn and suddenly felt like the whole idea of the apartment swap had been the worst idea she’d ever agreed to. But she’d done her breathing exercises, and repeated her mantra, and told herself that it was too late to turn back now…But this attack, with the taxicab stalled in the dark tunnel, was far worse than anything she’d had for a long while. The glistening walls of the endless tunnel curved up at the top. It was like being inside a massive constricting snake, and Kate felt her stomach fold within her, her mouth turn dry.’ And that is page one…….

The story is complex but Peter weaves it well – ‘Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life. But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London. When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met? Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real. And much, much closer than she thinks.’

Even the layout of the book – with inserted plain black pages here and there – intensifies the emotions stirred by this immensely successful novel. Peter Swanson is clearly in the hallowed hall of suspense writers. There is a film here… Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, February 17
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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