Her Every Fear
HER EVERY FEAR is appropriately titled, though it just as easily could have been called “Neighbors.” Peter Swanson’s third effort takes a look at what has become a popular (maybe too popular) theme in recent genre literature: dealing with people who swap apartments or perhaps engage in short-term rentals with subsequent reason to forget. Those who enjoy reading about vulnerable protagonists who wind up in even worse straits despite all good intentions will find this book fully satisfactory.
The great majority of HER EVERY FEAR takes place within the somewhat claustrophobic confines of an apartment building. Kate Priddy is a young English woman who has agreed to swap her less-than-palatial digs in London with Corbin Dell --- a second cousin she has never met --- who resides in an extremely tony apartment in the heart of Boston. Kate’s baggage is not limited to her suitcases, but her cousin and his apartment both have baggage of sorts as well, and much of it is revealed gradually over the course of the novel. Kate is the hottest of hot messes, as we find out practically from the beginning on page one. She is subject to all kinds of panic attacks, and when we find out why, we learn that it is certainly for good reason. What is supposed to be a six-month change of scenery as part of her long-term therapy turns out to be anything but.
"[T]hose readers who are tired of encountering the scenario in which the damsel in distress is rescued by a prince will find much to love here, given how Swanson puts a unique corkscrew on that plot device."
Kate’s arrival coincides with the discovery --- in the apartment right next door to her --- of the body of a young lady who has been brutally murdered. Naturally, suspicion lands on Corbin, who conveniently got out of Dodge just before the corpse was discovered. Corbin claims to have had very little to do with his deceased next-door neighbor, a statement that is contradicted by another neighbor, who has a penchant for window peeping and had been observing the woman’s activities in the weeks leading up to her death. Kate wonders why Corbin would lie about his involvement with the murdered woman, and so do the police.
Corbin is indeed lying, but not for the reason one might immediately expect. As the story progresses, Corbin’s problems become Kate’s in a major way. The best thing that she could possibly do is vacate the apartment and go back to London, which at least is familiar and secure. That is not going to happen, though. By the time the book concludes, nothing in Kate’s life will be the same.
Peter Swanson creates quite a mysterious stew here, accentuated by Kate’s near-constant anxiety, which she has learned to deal with, even if she can’t conquer it. That said, we’ve seen all of this before, at least with respect to the “trading places” subplot. Still, HER EVERY FEAR puts a couple of interesting twists on combining the fish-out-of-water situation, particularly when that fish is anything but a barracuda. Additionally, those readers who are tired of encountering the scenario in which the damsel in distress is rescued by a prince will find much to love here, given how Swanson puts a unique corkscrew on that plot device. Furthermore, his trademark ability to create slow-building suspense that becomes full in the last third of the book is on proud display here.
For those unfamiliar with Swanson’s work, start here and work your way back through his bibliography. You will be rewarded.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 12, 2017