All the Beautiful Lies
by Peter Swanson
Publication Date : April 3, 2018
Pages : 304
Synopsis from Publisher :
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.
I have always found the dynamics of the stepparent and stepchild relationship interesting. In the best of situations, the stepparent wants to take an active parenting role with their partner’s child, but does not want to be overwhelming. The stepchild is perhaps struggling with feelings of disloyalty to their parent. In All the Beautiful Lies Swanson expounds on this dynamic by adding in a new element, obsession and lust.
We meet Harry Ackerman a few days before his college graduation. Instead of planning his future Harry must deal with the grief of losing his father suddenly. To add to his grief, Harry learns the police believe his father’s death was suicide. Upon his arrival in Maine, Harry and his stepmother, Alice, try to support each other and settle his father’s affairs. While in Maine, Harry also meets Grace who’s reasons for being in Maine are suspect. Events unfold and Harry finds himself in complicated and dangerous circumstances. Harry begins to doubts Grace, Alice, and wonders if he ever really knew his father.
Some of the relationships in All the Beautiful Lies would be considered taboo. These relationships may be difficult for some readers, but I think Swanson uses these relationships to illustrate how patterns of abuse develop. These relationships also show what happens when vulnerable and broken people cross paths with a predator. The villain in this story is truly a predator. They stalked, assessed vulnerabilities, and struck. Swan also explores how a predator is created. Using flashbacks to the villain’s past, the reader will see how neglect and indifference resulted in a monster.
The death of Harry’s father, Bill is at the center of All the Beautiful Lies. However, little is known about him. The background which is provided comes from other characters and has been altered by their perception. I would have liked to learn more about Bill; learning more about his relationship with Alice from his perspective would have been very interesting. We do learn that Bill is a lover of books, filling two notebooks a year with his lists of favorite quotes and of his favorite books. This part of Bill’s personality was a bright spot in the story.
As with Swanson’s other books, All the Beautiful Lies has a great “flow”. Swanson’s uses flashbacks to provide background info on multiple characters. In other books, I have sometimes struggled with alternating timelines of more than one character; it became a little overwhelming and hard to follow. In All the Beautiful Lies the flashbacks made it difficult for me to stop reading. The timing of the flashbacks was perfect, any questions you had while reading about the present state of a character was answered in the next flashback.
I read other reviews for All the Beautiful Lies, many mentioned the disturbing relationships. I was a little concerned and had doubts as to whether this was the right book for me. I am so glad I took the chance. Readers contemplating giving All the Beautiful Lies a chance should be aware of the disturbing relationships, but they should not be deterred. All the Beautiful Lies is shocking and suspenseful story of obsession turned deadly.
**Thanks to William Morrow for my free copy of All the Beautiful Lies**
Murder and Moore Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars