HER EVERY FEAR

Crime Scene - - POST MORTEM - BY PETER SWAN­SON By Sarah Dobb s

“swan­son ex­plores how fear can colour a per­son’s per­cep­tion of the world”

Kate Priddy is sus­pi­cious of ev­ery­one. She’s al­ways been the anx­ious type, and af­ter her abu­sive for­mer boyfriend left her locked in a cup­board for days, she’s de­vel­oped a whole new set of pho­bias.

Priddy’s de­fault re­sponse to any un­fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tion is ter­ror, and who could blame her? But when she finds her­self in the mid­dle of a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it looks like her ten­dency to imag­ine the worst may fi­nally prove use­ful.

Swan­son’s lat­est thriller (his pre­vi­ous best­sellers are The Girl With A Clock For A Heart and The Kind Worth Killing), finds him paint­ing a queasily ac­cu­rate por­trayal of what it’s like to live with anx­i­ety every day. How­ever, Priddy isn’t po­si­tioned as a help­less vic­tim, rather Swan­son ex­plores how fear can colour a per­son’s per­cep­tion of the world around them, and why adren­a­line can make them mis­judge risk.

Our hero­ine has al­ready pushed her­self out of her mi­nus­cule com­fort zone by ac­cept­ing a house swap with a dis­tant cousin in Bos­ton, so af­ter mak­ing the jour­ney from London to the US, only to find that a neigh­bour’s been killed, well, that’s just one more thing to add to a long list of wor­ries.

With a premise that strong, Her Every Fear should be a nail­bit­ing read, one where Priddy’s in­abil­ity to dis­cern a wellmean­ing neigh­bour from a po­ten­tial mur­derer leads her into dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. In its bet­ter mo­ments, that’s pretty much ex­actly what this is, but al­though her fears are grip­pingly ren­dered – Swan­son man­ages to cap­ture the ex­act ir­ra­tional ter­ror of a panic at­tack – there are also chap­ters told from other char­ac­ters’ per­spec­tives, where things go awry. Not only are none of the other char­ac­ters as in­ter­est­ing, but as the nar­ra­tive hops from one to an­other, the iden­tity of the killer be­comes glar­ingly ob­vi­ous, and all of the ten­sion in the plot seeps away.

Dur­ing the fi­nal few chap­ters, Swan­son at­tempts some catand-mouse creepi­ness, but thanks to some mis­judged struc­tur­ing, the reader al­ready knows what the killer’s go­ing to do. In­stead of a cli­mac­tic face-off be­tween Priddy and a (quite fright­en­ing) psy­chopath, we get a bit of wheel-spin­ning, as the same scenes play out mul­ti­ple times, from dif­fer­ent an­gles.

It’s a real pity that Swan­son doesn’t hit his mark be­cause, oth­er­wise, this is a com­pelling who­dunit with a pleas­ingly un­con­ven­tional hero­ine and an in­cred­i­bly twisted an­tag­o­nist. It feels wrong to even sug­gest this, but it’s pos­si­ble that Her Every Fear would be a more sat­is­fy­ing read if you ripped out a hand­ful of pages to­wards the end.

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