Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

My first problem with this book is that every single time I read the title, I get “Every Breath You Take” by The Police stuck in my head. (Does this count as a “problem”?) I found it highly amusing (and somewhat of a relief) when that very song makes an appearance in the story. 

My first – and, up to now, only – experience with Peter Swanson was his book Eight Perfect Murders, which I thought was fantastic. That was the kind of book that made Peter Swanson a name that started to leap out at me from book lists. I was eager to read more of his work, and Every Vow You Break has been EVERYWHERE I look this spring, so I was in a froth to read it. When my library had a copy of the ebook available, I downloaded it so fast. What can I say? I was in a thriller state of mind and this one was at the top of my list.

Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Mini Plot Summary: Abigail has married the perfect man. He’s kind, he’s supportive of her dream to be a writer, he even wants to help her parents revive their failed business, and, oh, he’s filthy rich. But Abigail has a secret. One that would ruin her marriage. When she and her new husband fly to an island for a luxurious, off-the-grid honeymoon, Abigail hopes she has put it all behind her… but then one of the two people in the world who knows her secret threatens to bring her new life crashing down. 

image from amazon.com

What I Liked About This Book: This was a fast-paced thriller. A non-stop, propulsive, cannot-be-put-down kind of book. Those are always fun. I read it quickly and felt satisfied when it was done.

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: The writing style was not my favorite. Now, this is a personal-preference kind of a thing, most definitely. But, for me, the writing style left the impression that Swanson was in such a hurry to get the story down on the page that he didn’t focus as much on the language. (It reminded me of Blake Crouch’s writing style in the Hidden Pines trilogy.) The prose was simple, unadorned, meant to move the plot forward. Which is fine! A perfectly adequate writing style! But I guess I prefer something a little more descriptive and lyrical. 

The plot was ultra-predictable. Again, not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But I knew from very early on what was going to happen. Sometimes, that’s pleasurable: to know what will happen, and to watch it play out. (And if the writing is really beautiful, or the characterization is really well done, then the plot becomes almost secondary.) Sure, there were a few surprises along the way, and some unexpected, shall we say, detours, that made it more interesting. But I guess I kept waiting for The Big Twist that never came. 

There were a few subplots that seemed to be forgotten along the way. Or background information that didn’t really feel purposeful. Or, rather, it felt like it was meant to be purposeful but then that purpose never came to fruition. For instance, Swanson refers multiple times to Abigail’s parents’ business and its failure and how her husband wants to fund its reopening… but he doesn’t end up funding its reopening and I kept wondering why it was brought up at all? I understand that Swanson was giving us an alternate depiction of marriage (maybe?), but it felt like a thread he dropped halfway. There was also another background detail of revenge, which is brought up a couple of times and feels like a hint at what might be coming… but I couldn’t see how it tied in. It’s highly possible that I am just not putting the pieces together, but instead of clicking things into place for me it left me feeling like I’d missed something. 

This was one of those books where I didn’t care for any of the characters. The character development was lacking, for me; even though Swanson gave a lot of background on Abigail, I never felt like she was a full person. And the parts of her I did know seemed flat or just plain unlikable. (Plus, I really dislike when people make bad choices… and then compound those choices with additional bad choices or lies.) It also felt like Swanson improvised a lot of her characteristics as he went: there are parts of the book where she does some pretty extraordinary things, and Swanson explains them away by giving them – in that very moment – a backstory. It’s as if I paint a picture of a character who has no relationship to foreign languages over the course of three-fourths of the book… and then suddenly she is able to sweet-talk her French kidnapper in his own language… and I explain this miraculous coincidence by saying, “She was so pleased that her two years of high school French were still easily available in her brain.” These incidences just felt unearned and unbelievable. 

Should You Read This Book? I know it seems like I had a lot of criticisms, but honestly, the book was still a quick, exciting read. If you like mysteries and thrillers, I think you’ll enjoy this book! It was fun, and compelling, and I enjoyed reading it despite its flaws. 

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