HER EVERY FEAR
“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.