Title: All the Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Harry Ackerson has always considered his stepmother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “otherworldly” 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, Harry returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help each other 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.
“People hate to see other people happy. Remember that.”
I’d heard nothing but great things about Peter Swanson’s writing since I decided to read All the Beautiful Lies this month, and while it might be my first novel from him, I could tell very quickly that it certainly won’t be my last.
We follow Harry Ackerson as he returns home from college and attempts to unravel the truth behind his father’s unexpected death. In doing so, he stumbles upon secrets that reveal that Bill Ackerson may not have been the man Harry thought he was and that there may be more to his stepmother, Alice, than meets the eye.
The plot bounces between narrators and timelines, following Harry’s probings in the present but also exploring the nuances of Alice’s complicated past. I found both Harry and Alice to be incredibly well-rounded (albeit in very different ways), and while the plot was a bit of a slow burn, the character-driven writing had me enraptured from the start. Swanson has a wonderful talent for making his characters real and believable even when delving into the most discomforting of motives and desires.
This book is dark and twisted, and its pages are stained by lust and manipulations of all forms. It’s certainly a slow burn, but that’s not to say it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat with questions the whole way through. Even if I found certain twists to be rather predictable, the focus on the characters and exploring the inner workings of their minds made it worth it. I had so much fun with All the Beautiful Lies and the uncomfortable themes it explores.
Swanson poses the dangerous question of how well you truly know the people in your life, and it was chilling to watch the lengths to which these characters would go for misplaced love and loyalty. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more of Swanson’s work in the future!
All the Beautiful Lies is out next month! Thank you to William Morrow for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.