Book Title: All The Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Psychological Suspense, Domestic Drama, Fiction
Pub Date: 04/03/18
Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.
Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.
Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.
Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.
Each year I look forward to a new Peter Swanson novel as if it’s Christmas morning; the build up and anticipation grow steadily until I finally hold that nugget of goodness in my grubby little hands and devour it quickly. And devour it I did. Obviously the downside to this ritual of mine is that I have to face the long, painful wait for another novel, but I think that’s a pretty great problem to have, no? Whether you’re new to his books or an old fan like I am, it’s never a bad time to pick up a Swanson novel and there’s no wrong book to begin with, as they are all meant to stand alone. I say this each time, but the cover for All The Beautiful Lies has to be my favorite to date, and it ties in well to the story’s themes of passion, deceit, and just how far people are willing to go to preserve what they feel belongs to them. Also, how is it that crazy people tend to flock to each other?
Up front I acknowledge that this book won’t be for everyone. It’s content can be unsettling, disturbing, and inappropriate for some audiences; however, if you’re like me then those three words just peaked your interest even more than it previously was and you’re desperate to read it. The story begins in present day with young Harry Ackerson arriving home to attend the funeral of his father Bill. Bill was the owner of a book store housing unique and rare books and had remarried Alice after the death of his first wife when Harry was just a teen. Harry has always had a “Mrs. Jones” type fantasy going on for his step-mom, but feels weird when Alice seems to be needy toward him in more ways than one. I actually expected this to be a majority of the plot fodder but was sincerely pleased when this was not the case, but simply a small portion of the story. Some weird things begin happening and Harry investigates alongside a few other people when they realize his dad’s death may have no been an accident. You may think you have it figured out from the beginning, and you probably will have some ideas correct, but I was ecstatic to find a few twists that genuinely took me by surprise. Maybe I’m getting rusty, but it’s a rare day that I am 100% taken off guard by a twist and there were TWO in this book that owned me.
Without going into the spoiler-zone, I think what makes this book so compulsive for a character driven novel is that the backstories are so intriguing. This book would not have been what it was without Alice and Jake’s flashback POV’s, and the alternating between time periods really kept things fresh and moving quickly. There was such a comfortable flow to the storytelling technique used, and this made it the perfect book to pick up and fly through during our latest nor’easter that came through. #springbreak2018 I wouldn’t say any of the characters are particularly likable, but they are flawed and ill-fated in varying shades of gray which, of course, is my favorite way to read about villains in any time period. While this is technically a contemporary mystery, it also had a historical vibe due to those flashbacks I mentioned above; again, a really clever way to tell the story and keep the reader engaged.
If you’re a book lover who is sensitive to uncomfortable sexual content and flashes of violence and death, this won’t be the story for you. However, if you’re looking for a bold, character driven story that deals with some very real and very timely themes, you won’t want to miss All The Beautiful Lies. I found myself thinking about this book constantly while reading it and even after finishing the story. Questions ran through my mind such as “Do each of our actions truly shape the reactions of those around us?” and “Could the immoral control of those in authority be used to pass on their depraved desires in others simply by manipulating an unformed mind?” It was truly a thought provoking read, as all of Swanson’s novels are, and I’m delighted to be keeping him on my auto-purchase list.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy for review.