Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson: A chilling, thrilling feast of clever conundrums and serpentine twists - book review -
A drunken one-night stand at her hen party comes back to haunt a new bride when the stranger she slept with turns up at her isolated honeymoon retreat.
As the man swears that their passionate hours together were just the beginning of something much more, Abigail Baskin fears he is a dangerous, psychopathic stalker… but how can she tell her besotted new husband?
American master of the psychological thriller, Peter Swanson, delights his fans with another chilling, thrilling feast of clever conundrums and serpentine twists as a stolen night becomes the touchpaper for a slow-burn, but ultimately explosive, story of guilty secrets and terrifying obsession.
Best known for suspense-packed novels like The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, The Kind Worth Killing and All the Beautiful Lies, Swanson once again turns his razor-sharp mind and prodigious imagination to the fiendish brand of murderous magic which has made this Massachusetts author such a perennial favourite.
Abigail Baskin leads an ordinary life in New York City… she works for a poetry publisher, harbours her own dreams of being a writer, and has had a penchant for horror movies since she was a child. But she never thought she’d fall in love with a Silicon Valley millionaire.
She has had several relationships with men but never anything too serious or permanent, until she met Bruce Lamb in a city coffee shop and went on only three dates with him before he declared he had fallen in love with her at first sight.
Bruce is a good guy, stable, level-headed and kind. He also loves horror movies, has something ‘childlike and inexperienced’ about him despite his success and wealth, and is a refreshing twist on Abigail’s previous boyfriends.
But just three weeks before their wedding, Abigail drinks too much on her ‘bachelorette’ weekend in California and ends up sleeping with ‘Scottie,’ a man she met in the bar, and tells him that there is ‘a tiny part of her’ that wonders if she’s doing the right thing by marrying Bruce.
She puts the incident – and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name – out of her mind, convinces herself that she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life and looks forward to their honeymoon at an exclusive retreat on Heart Pond Island, off the Maine coast, owned by a friend of Bruce.
But once there, Abigail’s perfect new life threatens to crash down around her as she recognises one of their fellow guests as the good looking, charismatic Scottie who believes that their one night together was something special, something real… and he’s tracked her down to prove it.
Every Vow You Break should come with a warning to prepare for a single-sitting, reading marathon as Swanson plunges us head-first into an addictive and deftly executed mystery which positively crackles with menace and suspense.
From the early days of her whirlwind courtship with the enigmatic Bruce Lamb to hen party doubts over their forthcoming marriage, and the resolve to put the last fling and second thoughts behind her, Abigail’s journey from struggling, would-be writer to millionaire’s newly-minted wife becomes a sleep-walk into a nightmare.
As always, Swanson takes time to create an enthralling portrait of his lead players, offering up tantalising revelations from personal histories and back-stories to allow readers a glimpse into not just who they are, but what makes them tick.
And after a cleverly understated opener, this is a story that soon starts to pick up pace, gathering with it an increasing and disturbing sense of unease and claustrophobia, and unleashing a shocking series of events that catapult Abigail into the kind of outrageous, horror movie plot she has always loved watching.
Expect the unexpected… and enjoy the ride!
(Faber & Faber, hardback, £12.99)