When She Comes Knocking

Fiction - Thriller - Psychological
220 Pages
Reviewed on 04/03/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tanja Jurkovic for Readers' Favorite

In When She Comes Knocking by Dan McDowell, Ben moves into a beautiful new house with his wife Hannah and his son Davey, trying to leave their tragic past behind and build a new and better future for themselves. Upon moving in, they are greeted in their new neighborhood by their first-door neighbor Jean Jackson, who, although being nice initially, comes off as a bit strange, and tries to infiltrate Ben's and Hannah's lives, which eventually drives a wedge between the happy couple. Ben, completely engulfed in protecting his family and his marriage, must stay sane enough to stop Jean in her attempts to destroy his family and his life, and to get out of this nightmare.

When She Comes Knocking by Dan McDowell is an excellent and exciting psychological thriller that will make readers jump in their seats while reading. With every page, McDowell slowly but effectively builds up the story of Ben Decker, a family man with secrets and scars from the past, a salesman with questionable morale working in the pharmacy industry, a movie fan, and an overall everyday man. McDowell describes the characters and the situations wherein they find themselves in a very realistic, vivid, and relatable way, which creates an air of excitement and unknown dangers lurking in the background right until the very end of the novel. The twists and turns toward the end will make your head spin and will make you doubt everything you've read as you're reaching the finale of this great story.

Maria Victoria Beltran

When She Comes Knocking is a psychological thriller by Dan McDowell. Ben Decker, a sales representative at J&P, sells pills that addict people when he suddenly finds himself working for Olkov Enterprises. The new company takes over and continues selling the pill now rebranded as Garashock 500. Together with his wife Hannah and son Davey, he is also moving to a new house at 1737 17th street. The house is perfect for the family until they get to know their neighbor, Jean Jackson, who lives at 1739. Cold and unwelcoming the first time they meet her, Jean becomes hospitable, then flirty, and now behaves like she’s an old friend of Hannah’s. As he deals with life and the pressures of his job, Ben feels that Jean is manipulating his time and space in ways he can’t understand. And Jean Jackson comes knocking again.

Dan McDowell’s When She Comes Knocking is a chilling psychological thriller with ordinary characters seemingly living mundane lives. What makes it unsettling is the suggestion that it could happen to any of us under ordinary circumstances like moving to a new house or changes in the workplace. Ben Decker becomes more isolated as he struggles with the mystery surrounding his new neighbor and is tormented by an internal conflict. The sudden change in his working life is also threatening his career, relationships, and his sense of identity. A master storyteller, Dan McDowell’s literary style is rich in vivid details and visual imagery. The characters are authentic with their history forming part of the twists and turns of the plot. This gradual revelation of the characters’ backstories is highly effective in building a compelling plot that keeps readers engaged until the last page. Highly recommended!

Alma Boucher

When She Comes Knocking is a psychological thriller by Dan McDowell. Ben Decker receives an email from Olkov Enterprises. Mori Olkov is the CEO, and he wants to hire Ben. Olkov Enterprises is selling Garashock, an excellent pain killer when used moderately, but it can be addictive. Ben and Hannah are scarred and traumatized by recent events. Ben is a family man looking out for the future of his family. He buys a house with the hope that the new home and surroundings will help with his and his wife's healing. Their new neighbor, Jean Jackson, is very unfriendly and acts strangely when they go over to meet her. But it's not long before Hannah and Jean become friends. Ben is not happy with this friendship. He does not trust Jean.

When She Comes Knocking is filled with intrigue and nail-biting thrills. Dan McDowell had me hooked from the first page. The plot is complex and jam-packed with action. It is fast-paced but never felt rushed. The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat. The story is unpredictable, and I could not guess what would happen next. It was a page-turner, and I could not put it down. The characters are well-developed and realistic. They were relatable and could be anyone I know. I was engaged in Jean’s odd behaviors. She was at times creepy and bizarre. The story is superbly written and had me guessing until the end. The ending was unexpected and fitting after all the twists and turns.

Viga Boland

When She Comes Knocking by Dan McDowell is disconcerting, and that’s not a negative. It’s disconcerting only because I can’t decide what intrigues me most about McDowell’s writing. Is it his unique psychological thriller plot? His impressive vocabulary? Or, is it his almost philosophical musings as voiced through his protagonist’s thoughts? Upon reflection, it is, of course, all three of those elements, along with one more; a twist he throws at readers who take the time to read his author’s notes at the end of the story, and I strongly suggest you do. The story opens benignly enough with several dialogue-driven chapters informing us who Ben Decker is and how he earns a living, followed by introducing us to his lovely wife and sharing their dreams for a bright future in a new home. But, given the genre of this tale, astute readers will immediately ponder the foreshadowing in Ben’s reflection that “Lots of smart people think they know about the things that drive people to do and to be — all the nuances that make a person tick. Few understand what makes us break.”

From that point on, what happens to the Deckers once they move into their new home, their interactions with their evasive neighbor, Jean, and how and why they ultimately teeter on the edge of a marriage break-up keeps us turning pages, despite the sometimes long reflections by Ben on life’s idiosyncrasies. Those reflections, as much as the clever plot and McDowell's delivery, make When She Comes Knocking worth your time. McDowell addresses several important human issues in this story including recovering from the death of a child and unrecognized or denied addiction to pharmaceutical drugs. Many of us may recognize ourselves in Ben, his wife, and the ominous Jean, revealing an emotional connection that is a sign of good writing. But, if you are a writer reading this review, I strongly suggest you read Dan McDowell’s Author Notes when you finish this story for an entirely different perspective on how it came to be written and what it really is.