Everything You Want Me to Be
Mindy Mejia
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Everything You Want Me to Be
Peter Swanson
William Morrow
352 pages
January 2017
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Her Every Fear.

Kate Piddy, the central character in Swanson’s latest thriller, is unaccustomed to an active life of adventure and world-traveling. She’s initially hesitant to bite the bullet and do a six-month house swap in Boston, where she will live in her second cousin’s flat in Beacon Hill. Corbin Hill, who is going to live in her apartment in London, is incredibly handsome and quite rich, something not lost on Audrey Marshall, Corbin’s next-door neighbor. Bookish, beautiful Audrey is perplexed at Corbin’s strange pleas not to mention their relationship and to keep their affair strictly “in the apartment.”

Into this sinister dynamic arrives emotionally vulnerable Kate, who learns from a man called Jack Ludovico that Corbin was sleeping with Audrey until their relationship turned sour. Apparently, Audrey was possessive; Corbin panicked and was frantically trying to get away from her. Prone to panic attacks herself, Kate pushes the escalating thoughts from her mind, especially after she gets a visit from dark-eyed Detective Roberta James, who is charged with investigating Audrey's sudden death. More bizarre is James’s confession that Corbin was probably responsible for Audrey’s death. As a long, silent emptiness fills Corbin’s glamorous apartment, Kate explains to James that she’s never met Corbin.

Events take a potentially sinister turn, the tables are turned, and Kate shows her grit, beginning a risky investigation into Audrey’s untimely demise. As the danger for Kate becomes increasingly real, she is plagued with visions that she’s back at her cottage in Wyndemere, crouched and cowering in the locked closet in a urine-drenched nightgown while her crazy boyfriend, George Daniels, threatens her on the other side of the door. Kate turns to her sketchbook, where she finds solace and a way to commemorate the beginning of her time in a new country.

While most of the book is presented from Kate’s perspective, the suspense gets an extra edge from the additional voice of Alan, a voyeur by nature who lives across the courtyard from Audrey and has spent the last several weeks furtively staring through his window into her apartment. At one moment, Alan could have sworn that someone was staring back at him as he watched the blurred, gray shadows across the way shimmer in his vision. His obsession with Audrey has nothing to do with Audrey herself and everything to do with the fact that he could watch her from afar.

As the narrative quickens, Kate and Alan find themselves drawn to each other in the race to uncover Audrey’s killer. Caught between self-doubt, mistrust, and fear--and plagued by singular complications--Kate goes bravely in search of connections, looking through everything in Corbin’s apartment without quite knowing why or what she’s searching for. Beyond the locked door, out there in the world--“out there somewhere”--is Audrey’s murderer, who killed and mutilated Audrey with his knife and is now interested in Kate. Filled with the distinct impression that she’s about to go into battle, Kate expects someone to turn the corner and make an appearance at any moment: Sanders the curious cat, George Daniels “back from the dead,” Corbin Dell back from England, and Alan, who at first stalks her from the front door. Kate’s sketchbook is her only salvation, perhaps a key to unlock the dark secret that she might just be attracted to psychopaths: “bad people happen to me.”

Like an onion, each layer of the story is peeled back, revealing a world of non-stop voyeurism and intrigue. While the third voice, Corbin--at least for the moment--remains a passive outsider back in London, Henry Wood (the final major character) proves to be every bit as evil as the author intends him to be. When his pact with Corbin goes sour, Henry sets out to destroy Corbin’s life and abolish any possibility of Corbin’s happiness. That Henry is the “invisible monster” of the story comes as no surprise. It is Henry who introduces Corbin “to a new and better world,” a world of murder that unfolds in London’s Boddington Cemetery, where a beautiful girl’s death becomes almost orgiastic when her spilled blood is shared in perfect, equal measure.

While not quite as taut as his previous novel, Her Every Fear still embodies Swanson’s trademark choreographed precision as he weaves his Hitchcockian plotlines into issues of isolation, crime, and the clockwork grind of daily life told from Kate’s singular perspective. From the benign to the final violent scene, a murderer crisscrosses Kate’s life, connecting and disconnecting, ever elusive. As Kate’s memories turn full circle, finally allowing her to be triumphant in the face of fear, Swanson again demonstrates that human nature is often compelled by a darker side, driven by an evil that we would never want to see happen in our own lives.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2017

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