Title: All The Hidden Truths
Author: Claire Askew
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton UK
This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.
But no one can say why.
The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.
All The Hidden Truths is a stunning, emotional read which addresses some very difficult themes with sensitivity and realism. Although classed as a crime novel, this novel feels more like a portrait of the feelings and effects of such a horrible crime – a college shooting – on a community, and the way it’s dealt with by police, families of the victim and, most powerfully for me anyway, the family of the killer. There are still elements of your ‘typical’ crime novel, such as a police investigation and a narrative from the perspective of the detective, but because we know almost right from the start who is to blame, and that person is dead, it’s not about who did it but why and what happens afterwards. Without the ‘whodunnit’ element that I’m usually so interested in, I wondered if I’d be as engrossed – I definitely was! I raced through this novel and couldn’t put it down.
There’s so much grief and heartbreak within these pages, and I really felt for the people living through it; Claire Askew makes you really consider what this situation must be like for everyone. Some of the characters are truly horrible people (and it’s obvious who falls into this category once you start reading) but, for the most part, the people in this novel feel real, each with their own problems and flaws, and it really highlights the way that everyone deals with terrible situations differently. Askew’s portrayal of Moira, the mother of the gunsman Ryan, was incredibly powerful to read as she battled with her guilt at not having seen it all coming, as was Ishbel’s struggles to come to terms with the death of her daughter and the breakdown of her marriage. I also really liked DI Helen Birch, and hope to see more of her in the future – fingers crossed for a second book featuring Helen!
Claire Askew beautifully weaves together various stories and experiences, all around one central storyline – that of the college shooting – and creates a truly heart-breaking, gripping read.
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.