All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

‘Ryan’, she heard herself say. It wasn’t – the boy didn’t even look that much like her son. But he was about the same age, the same build, and just for a second her imagination superimposed her son’s face over the face of this stranger.

All the hidden truths book cover

The biggest question is why. Why did Ryan Summers choose to walk into his college campus and kill 13 women, then end his own life? Why did he kill Abigail Hodegekiss first? Why didn’t the police react more swiftly? Why didn’t someone stop him?

These questions will reverberate around the heads of those left behind; Ryan’s mother, Abigail’s mother, and DI Helen Birch, who begins her new role by trying to gain some kind of control over this case.

But there are plenty of people who want to use this tragedy to further their own agenda; the tabloids, the media, online ‘justice warriors’, conspiracy theorists. Do any of them actually care about the truth?

**

This is one of the most emotive and refreshing crime debuts I have read. Far from your standard police procedural (and I cast no shade, police procedurals are one of my favourite kinds of book), All the Hidden Truths guides the reader through the aftermath of a school shooting through the point of view of three women profoundly, but very differently, affected by the killings.

Moira Summers, Ryan’s mother, is torn between grief for her little boy, and terrible guilt for what he has done. She can’t stop asking herself whether she could have prevented this; should she have known?

Ishbel Hodgekiss is searching for a reason why her child became a victim, the first victim. She is coming to feel that she never even knew her daughter.

Helen Birch is newly promoted to Detective Inspector and finds herself thrust into the most prominent investigation in recent history. The attention Ryan’s actions have drawn from the media are bringing up a lot of ghosts from Helen’s past. She has to fight to keep her head and bring some closure to the families.

Through each point of view chapter I became more and more invested in what was happening to each of these three women. None of them perfect, their flaws can be clearly seen, but each of them demanded empathy and understanding as they struggled to make some sense of how life could go on. This book was fantastic in leading me to feel that, along with our key characters, I needed some closure, I needed a resolution, and that feeling kept me stuck to All the Hidden Truths right through to the end.

The good memories do come back.

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