All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
285 pages | Published April 5th, 2018
Rating: 4/5 stars
In a dark and brilliant guessing game of a novel, Peter Swanson once again displays his unique gift for reprising and refreshing mystery writing’s greatest tropes.
On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father.
But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a brilliant split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?
Swanson balance: 3 out of 4 books read!! You might know by now that I am a huge Peter Swanson fan, and plan to read all of his books. Well, now there’s only one left, so I’ll accomplish that goal very soon 😉
Going into this, I didn’t really know what to expect because I’d seen both 1 and 5-star reviews on different blogs. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience right from the start. The only reason I didn’t read the whole book in one sitting is that I was buddy-reading it with a friend, so I wanted to wait so we could be on the same page (literally). Still regarding the buddy-read, although mine and my friend’s opinions are similar, I ended up enjoying it more than she did, and you’re about to find out why.
PLOT & WRITING
In ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES, we follow Henry, whose father, Bill, just died while out on one of his regular walks in Kennewick, where he lived. Harry leaves for Kennewick, in order to attend his father’s funeral and, perhaps, get more insightful information on what could have made his father slip and fall. He stays with his stepmother, Alice, who is lonely and very shaken up by her husband’s death. We also get Alice’s perspective, but in the past, which makes for a compelling and rounded narrative.
This is one of those books that have you make assumptions as you read on, but not everything is as it seems to be. I absolutely love this kind of storytelling – apparently, I’m totally into being deceived… Swanson really enjoys confusing the reader, making them question even the information they thought was correct based on previous revelations. It almost feels like a classic whodunnit in that sense. It’s very capturing and keeps you turning the pages. Next thing you know, the book is over and you can only wish for more.
I must admit that I thought the author could have explored every element of the story better than he did. There are several times in which something is mentioned and you immediately think it’s the kind of thing that will make a big comeback, but authors don’t always take the chance, which is a bummer. It’s a fairly short book, barely 300 pages, so I do feel like more could have been done. That definitely doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book – I obviously did, as you can tell by what I’ve been saying -, but I was hoping some little details would come back to bite us in the ass.
I should warn you that this book includes pedophilia and controversial/taboo relationships, as well as obsessive and controlling behavior. These topics play an important role in the story, so they are ever-present throughout. It’s pretty uncomfortable to read about grown ass people preying on kids so, if you’re sensitive to this kind of stuff, I would advise you not to read it.
If you are into the sinful, immoral, and unadvised side of literature, though, this is a good pick. I found the story and the way it progressed to be remarkably gripping and deliciously twisted – not only because of the plot itself but enhanced by the characters. I have to admit some things were predictable, but that didn’t leave me too unsatisfied. And the ending definitely made up for it – totally didn’t see it coming my way. I absolutely loved it!
The characters, their stories, the way they think and act, everything is incredibly well thought-out. I always love Swanson’s characters – you learn to care for even the characters who commit the foulest of acts, and sometimes you become sympathetic towards them, which is kind of scary. It reminds me of when I found myself rooting for the stalker in You by Caroline Kepnes… how do writers do this to us!? 😧
An interesting aspect of this book is how there are a lot of literary mentions throughout it. Bill owned a bookstore, and his whole life revolved around books – and so did Harry’s, growing up, so he is an avid reader as well. We all love to have a bookworm as a main character, don’t we? Besides the act of reading itself, there are also mentions of bookish habits, which I’m a sucker for. Most (if not all) of the books and authors mentioned are in the crime genre since it was Bill’s favorite. Now I’ve got a couple of new authors to check out!
He picked through a stack of books on the desk. At the top was one of his father’s moleskin notebooks. He’d always had one going, filling at least two notebooks a year. In a sense, they were his diaries, but instead of filling them with activities and day-to-day recollections, they were filled with lists of books he was trying to acquire, and lists of books he already had.
Overall, All the Beautiful Lies is a gripping story wrapped in mystery and filled with immoral, unscrupulous characters – careful, though… you might find yourself caring for them!
I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on All the Beautiful Lies and if you’d like, check out my other book reviews!
Have you read this book? Are you a Swanson fan as well? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you so much for reading,
I’ll see you in my next post ♡