All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
Published by William Morrow on April 3rd, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
“He began to think about all the words his father read, all the plots he’d absorbed, and how they were all gone, but then he stopped himself.”
Peter Swanson is my favourite mystery/thriller author. But this? This book just didn’t cut it for me.
All the Beautiful Lifes follows Harry Ackerson, who’s always found his step-mother Alice to be beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She’s always been kind and attentive, and a little aloof in the last couple of years.
Just 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. IT’s there that he and Alice help one another pick up 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. She claims to be new to the area, but Harry suspects she’s not a complete stranger to his family. And she seems to be taking an interest in Harry while Alice grows closer.
Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell, but as he grows closer to them, he has a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous — even deadly — secrets. And that neither of them is telling the truth.
I’m kind of shocked at myself for rating this so low.
I was so conflicted that I waited a week to write this review. I needed to sit with what I read and process how it made me feel.
If it’s just based on writing, I’d give this book five stars. Swanson has an incredible ability to craft stories that maintain a high level of suspense.
I’m never bored when I read his books. In fact, I tend to read them in a day because I have such trouble putting them down! But, this? This was something else. I felt so uncomfortable reading this book and that’s why I rated this book so low.
As you can tell from the summary, this book depicts predatory behaviour from Alice toward Harry. And that’s not even the worst “relationship” in this book! People might say that all acts were consensual, Harry’s of age, and it’s not incest, but… no. I just can’t get behind any of the relationships in this book.
Not one single relationship was healthy. I’m not saying that every book has to have at least one model relationship that everyone looks up to. But there needs to be a deeper exploration into the reasoning and the psyche of the people who manipulate and prey on young people.
Pedophilia cannot be explained away in one chapter where a character’s backstory is briefly explained.
And I think Swanson did attempt to connect a few dots together about how people’s relationships when they’re younger impact them when they’re older.
But even then, that’s not enough to go on. It comes across that these “unconventional” relationships (read: abusive and manipulative) are put in for shock value.
This book also suffered from, “Ok there’s nothing that memorable about the main character, but somehow everyone falls in love with him.” There’s absolutely nothing interesting about Harry. In fact, I still don’t know anything about him. So it made me roll my eyes when all these women were supposedly into him.
I think I could’ve pushed through this book and given it a higher rating if the mystery itself was intriguing. It wasn’t. The pacing was off, nothing major happened in the first 60 percent of the book, and the reveal was done way too late. By then, I was annoyed by all the characters and wanted the book to end.
Swanson has another book coming out next year that I will definitely read. This book was just a miss for me. But I’d highly recommend The Kind Worth Killing by him!