Book review: Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Fear'¦ it's perhaps the most powerful and visceral human emotion, and one that exciting US author Peter Swanson has learned to exploit with breathtaking audacity and skill.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 9:04 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:22 pm
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

With two superb thrillers already under his belt – The Girl With a Clock for a Heart and The Kind Worth Killing – Swanson makes a bold return with a Hitchcockian humdinger of a novel that takes readers into the darkest and most disturbing recesses of the human psyche.

Think film classics like Rear Window and Wait Until Dark and then immerse yourself – if you dare – into the chilling tale of a vulnerable young Englishwoman caught in a vice of voyeurism, betrayal, manipulation and murder when she swaps homes with a distant relative in America.

Bristling with tension, menace and paranoia, the already unstable Kate Priddy’s journey into the heart of evil will take her up close to her worst fears, and maybe even to the edge of insanity…

Kate has always been neurotic but her momentary bouts of anxiety understandably exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her, locked her in a closet and nearly ended her life.

Now she has learned to control her panic attacks by breathing exercises and repeating a calming mantra. So when Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston whom she has never met, suggests the two swap apartments for six months, Kate, an art student in London, agrees and hopes that time away in a new place will help her overcome the wreckage of her life.

But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, a place curiously lacking in personal items, Kate makes a shocking discovery… his next-door neighbour, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered in her kitchen.

When the police question Kate about Corbin, she has few answers and many questions of her own. And Kate’s curiosity about Corbin 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 flat and yet her cousin has denied knowing her. Then Kate runs into a man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend who insists Corbin murdered Audrey on the night that he left for London.

When Kate reaches out to Corbin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves until she finds disturbing objects hidden in his apartment, and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is.

Could Corbin be a killer, and what about Alan Cherney? Kate finds herself unaccountably drawn to this appealing man. Alan seems so sincere and yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and increasingly unstable, her imagination playing out her every fear, Kate can barely trust herself… so how can she take a chance on a stranger she has only just met? And is the danger she always anticipates much, much closer than she thinks?

Told through several narrators and with twists and turns at every juncture, Her Every Fear is a masterclass in psychological insight and intricate plotting as Swanson carefully ratchets up the tension in his slow-build, spine-tingling page-turner.

With emotions running at high voltage, a tangible sense of terror percolating through the pages and a cast of suitably creepy characters to keep readers on their toes, Swanson – a consummate writer always in control of pace and perception – delivers a mind-jangling, edgy thriller with all the panache we have come to expect.

But beware those with a nervous disposition!

(Faber & Faber, hardback, £12.99)