All The Beautiful Lies
Peter Swanson’s effortlessly stylish modern noir novels have earned him many plaudits and great success. The Girl With A Clock for A Heart, The Kind Worth Killing and Her Every Fear all play with familiar murder mystery tropes and are all bestsellers. His fourth book doesn’t take any chances - unless it’s with the taboo subject of a grieving widow with designs on her stepson.
On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his stepmother Alice after the unexpected death of his father - an apparently mild-mannered bookshop owner with no known enemies.
But who is Alice? How much does Harry really know about his father’s second wife, other than the fact that he’s finding himself increasingly attracted to her?
Using a dual timeframe narrative, Swanson teases out the lies of the past and how they impact on the present. As you’d expect, the writing is elegant and the plot hurtles along at a satisfying pace.
My only issue was with some of the characters. Apart from poor Harry, whose physical beauty is almost feminine and whose grief over his father’s death is complicated by his feelings for his stepmother, there are times when they feel underdeveloped.
This is especially true of the younger women, who are seen through the eyes of the male characters as ethereally beautiful but mad, bad or dangerous to know. Later, there’s a double-identity character reveal that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Scooby Doo.
Still, there’s a lot to admire here. It’s certainly not a book you’ll want to put down. The twists come thick and fast and the ending is perversely pleasing. PAUL BURSTON