Published: April 3, 2018
From the acclaimed author of Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing comes a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder—a sly and brilliant guessing game of a novel in the vein of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Patricia Highsmith.
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.
The crux of this story is this: a woman begins an affair with her stepson. As the story progresses, readers discover she was involved in a similar affair as a young person, too, and are drawn into this repulsive web of taboo relationships. These relationships are not technically illegal, but they’re most certainly uncomfortable and taboo – and the power dynamics between adult and young person presented within them adds a whole other layer of wrong for readers to unpack. The cycle of manipulation and grooming portrayed here was the author’s way of showing how abuse can beget abuse. And that idea – the idea of examining a cycle of abuse – is not in and of itself a bad thing. When portrayed through the lens of commentary on a terrible and very prevalent occurrence, this kind of examination could indeed be quite effective in sparking an important conversation among readers. But it almost takes over the book, in my opinion .
The story is told from a number of perspectives, with the timeline jumping between present and past as pieces of the backstory gradually begin fitting into place. It’s a narrative path well trodden by the modern-day crime writer – here it can serve to confuse and I defy you to reach the end without having to backtrack a little.
While All the Beautiful Lies never quite hits the heady heights of The Kind Worth Killing, it’s still a great read. You may well work out the killer ahead of time, but I’m guessing the clever final twist will come as a big surprise.