“Every Vow You Break,” by Peter Swanson (William Morrow)
When Bruce, a fabulously wealthy financier, proposes to Abigail after only three dates, she says yes. Then she gets drunk at a bachelorette party that he paid for and sleeps with a complete stranger. She feels guilty afterwards, although not terribly so, and decides to keep the indiscretion to herself.
But when she returns home to New York, the stranger, who calls himself Scott, emails her, pleading that she cancel the marriage because she belongs with him. She tries to let him down gently, but then, at her wedding, she thinks she spots him lurking outside.
This beginning — and the book title, “Every Vow You Break,” which calls to mind a famous stalker song by The Police — sets readers up for what the publisher’s hype has promised. A thriller.
But for a thriller, the first 130 pages unfold at an agonizingly slow pace. Author Peter Swanson takes his time telling us about Abigail’s childhood in a small Massachusetts town where her parents own a struggling regional theater. He tells us about Abigail’s first boyfriend. And her second one. And her third one. None of this, it turns out, has anything to do with the plot, nor does it develop her character in a way that explains her later actions.
If readers stick with it, however, Swanson picks up the pace about halfway through. Abigail’s fear of Scott and her fear of losing Bruce over her indiscretion grow — and then turn into terror when the stalker crashes her honeymoon at a nightmarishly odd island resort.
There, the plot twists come at a furious pace. When Abigail seeks help in dealing with Scott, she gradually discovers that she has no one she can count on. Almost no one around her is who they pretend to be.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”