Cover Image: All the Hidden Truths

All the Hidden Truths

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

All the Hidden Truths is Claire Askew's debut novel, inspired by real-life events happening throughout America, and is both highly compelling and utterly heartbreaking
Was this review helpful?
This is my first Claire Askew book but not my last 

I really enjoyed the story and the subject and how the lives of everyone involved became entwined 

Some of  the characters were unlikeable but given the subject matter this is understandable 

Well done Claire nicely written story
Was this review helpful?
All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

When 20-year-old Ryan Summers walks into his college in Edinburgh and shoots dead thirteen female students before using the last bullet on himself, the shocked community is changed forever. All the Hidden Truths strips this horrendous crime bare, searching for the reasons behind it, its devastating repercussions, by focusing on three of the women most affected – Moira, the mother of the killer; Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, one of the victims; DI Helen Birch, the newly promoted officer in charge of the case and also one of the first on scene.

All the Hidden Truths is one of the most intense novels I’ve read in quite a while. It’s one of those books that makes you miss bus stops, makes you not hear when people speak to you (I can vouch for both of these), and its beginning is utterly gripping. We know that this horrendous mass shooting is on the way and it’s all the more powerfully presented as it’s revealed bit by bit, through the experiences of people who were there, the ones who survived. The chapters move between these women (two of them traumatised, the other troubled) and scattered throughout are newspaper reports because this is also a novel about the role of the media at a time such as this. And here they are, the vultures with one foot on the victim’s lawn, or wedged in the doorway.

Each of the women has a fascinating tale to reveal, bit by bit. Moira and Ishbel are almost destroyed by their grief and confusion. But is Moira really a victim? Did she know what Ryan intended to do? Is she to blame? It isn’t any easier for Ishbel as her dead daughter’s character is scrutinised and everything in Ishbel’s life falls apart.

This is all deeply intense and the mood is actually eased a little by the sections which focus on Helen Birch and her efforts to hold her investigation together when she is faced by difficulties from every side. I particularly found these chapters interesting for what they reveal about the role of family liaison officers in situations such as these. Some are new to the job, others have years of experience, but all of them are out of their depth here.

I found All the Hidden Truths a compelling read but I also found it a distressing one. Its mood is sustained throughout and I couldn’t read it all in one go. Instead I read it in three sittings with two other books fitted into the gaps. The novel is superbly written by Claire Askew and she has certainly done her research. So the fact that I found it too intense to read in one go is actually a compliment. It all feels horrifically real, Ryan Summers feels like a young man you can meet on the street, Abigail could so easily be a friend, child or sister. The agonising questions of Why which follow a mass shooting are so hard to answer. Claire Askew here treats those questions with insight and great feeling and care. All the Hidden Truths is an extraordinary and powerful debut.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading it from the different perspectives which really opened the story up. I'd definitely recommend this to readers.
Was this review helpful?
I am in charge of our Senior School library and am looking for a diverse array of new books to furnish their shelves with and inspire our young people to read a wider and more diverse range of books as they move through the senior school. It is hard sometimes to find books that will grab the attention of young people as their time is short and we are competing against technology and online entertainments.
This was a thought-provoking and well-written read that will appeal to young readers across the board. It had a really strong voice and a compelling narrative that I think would capture their attention and draw them in. It kept me engrossed and I think that it's so important that the books that we purchase for both our young people and our staff are appealing to as broad a range of readers as possible - as well as providing them with something a little 'different' that they might not have come across in school libraries before.
This was a really enjoyable read and I will definitely be purchasing a copy for school so that our young people can enjoy it for themselves. A satisfying and well-crafted read that I keep thinking about long after closing its final page - and that definitely makes it a must-buy for me!
Was this review helpful?
I really, really, really wanted to like this book.  I actually met the author in passing a few years ago and she's still a Twitter contact.  

This book just seemed incredibly addled to me, flitting from ranting about tabloid culture to incense to blaming the mother.  None of the characters felt truly realised and a lot of the plot defied logic.  

I don't want to post a review online as it would just feel a bit rude given that I know people who know Claire Askew and they did enjoy this book.  It was just disappointing and I don't think I'll be reading anything by her again.
Was this review helpful?
Wow, this is a five star story. Student, Ryan, goes into college one morning and kills 13 students, then himself. The story is narrated by police officers, parents of the dead students and Ryan's mother. A brilliant read.
Was this review helpful?

The story of the aftermath of a lone killer who murders thirteen young women and injures one man in a shooting at an Edinburgh college. Yes this is a book about death and grieving to some extent but it covers the police investigation – they know who did it, just not why, so is this just a futile exercise? – newly promoted D I Helen Birch investigates, co-ordinates the family support and, after a surprise encounter has to deal with some of her own ghosts. DCI McLeod, her boss, is ‘leading’ the investigation but he’s a bit old school and has a tendency to put the team on edge. The families – it follows mainly Abigail’s family – and Moira the mother of the perpetrator. It also shows that media frenzy (in the shape of one particular reporter, Gary) – the need to know everything however inappropriate and put it out to the world regardless of what this kind of reporting does to the families – can have some devastating effects and yet may even, possibly for all the wrong reasons, end up giving the strength to battle.

It shows how justice cannot always be found but that maybe closure can be – albeit in a somewhat unexpected and surprising way.

This is may be a difficult book for some to read although it does not wallow there is a deep, sometimes overwhelming sadness in the story – yes from the very act, from what happened, from the heroism, from the waste of lives or, rather, what they could have been but also from the aftermath what happens to the families who have lost loved ones only to find some hidden truths that will break them, build them or even do both. It is a testament to how humans survive terrible tragedy even when that tragedy has been compounded by those hidden truths.

This book is well worth reading.

With thanks to Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley for an eCopy of this book. Thoughts are my own.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting story, well written and constructed. I'll be looking out for more books by this author.
Was this review helpful?
An intense and emotional book which is thought provoking and gripping. I've been recommending it to others.

4 stars,

Thanks to NetGalley and Claire Askew for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I couldn’t finish this book as the formatting resulted in it being unreadable partway through the book.
Was this review helpful?
What a very clever book! I thought I was going to read a Scottish noir novel ,which I love, but this could have happened in any town or city. Told from the perspective of three women it was so insightful and raw. I couldn’t put it down and was both horrified and angry how the drama was manipulated by the media for sensation. Just brilliant.
Was this review helpful?
This was a really  good read, I shall be looking for more by this author in the future. 3 perspectives of a mass killing are explored from 3 different, but connected women giving us insight into the why of the case.
Was this review helpful?

It's been a while since i read a book in one sitting but this was one of those times, the other day i sat and read the whole thing in one go. All The Hidden Truths was a review book i've had from netgalley for some while right now and i just picked it at random with not much knowledge or remembrance about it.

Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed 13 women then turned the gun on himself. Why? The families want answers, the media wants answers and so does his mother. Told through the eyes of those families, the police, with media excerpts, texts and diary entries it makes for a real interesting read. 

I feel like this would really benefit from been read in a book format as i feel this elements really added depth to the narrative. I felt that this book was deeply emotional although like alot of books/instances of a school shooting you dont always get the answers you are seeking. 

All the hidden truths is told from the perspective of DI Birch - a newly promoted police woman who is dealing with some personal issues of her own, taking on her first major case in her new role and trying to keep a handle on the media all at the same time, i really warmed to her and felt for her as she battled all this whilst trying to get answers for the families.

Secondly it is told from the mum of one of the girls who is murdered, Ishbel. We meet her before the tragic event and get an insight into the relationship between the mother and daughter. I again really enjoyed getting to know Ishbel - seeing how she dealt with not only this major trauma but other issues that were going on as well.

Lastly we meet Moira - Ryans mother, who has had her own share of heartbreak already and now has to come to terms with what her only son has done and does she even really know why?

All The Hidden Truths is a deeply moving book that really tackles a serious issue but from the perspective of a fiction reader you dont get much answers, you dont get to learn about the characters - their families and what motivates them but i dont feel like i got full closure. That been said - i would reccomend it in a heartbeat.
Was this review helpful?
This book follows the story of a school shooting. It focuses on three females: the mother of a victim, the mother of the shooter and the police officer in charge of the investigation. 

Unfortunately the story feels very slow and drawn out & sadly I couldn't finish it as it just didn't hold my interest
Was this review helpful?
Dark and affecting, All The Hidden Truths is a fictional examination of the aftermath of a college shooting, not in the usual setting of the US but in Edinburgh, in a country not known for its abundance of firearms. It is from the perspective of three women. The police detective who was one of the first at the scene, the mother of one of the victims and the mother of the shooter. 

It's an interesting and thought-provoking tale that doesn't seem set out to make any judgements. It touches on how parents worry that they do not know what is going on in our children minds but given the chance at an insight into how they might baulk and turn away from the truth. It also covers the power of the media and in particular the mob mentality of social media.

The three main characters are both easy to relate to and ultimately fallible in their reactions to the aftermath. There's no crusader here. They're just coping the best they can and trying to work out the ultimately unknowable question when someone is lost in violent circumstances - why?  

If you're after a roller coaster thriller this won't be for you but if you like your fiction well written, thought-provoking and hard to put down this is well worth a read.
Was this review helpful?
A wonderfully well-written book with a feeling of suspense on every page.

It's the usual start to a typical day for DI Birch moving from her old precinct to her new job following her promotion when reports begin flooding of a gunman at a local college that turns her world on its head. What follows is a suspense-filled in-depth account of the lives of the family of the victims as well as the police and journalists. This book from Claire is an exceptionally well-written story that does a fantastic job of balancing all the elements of family life pre/post shooting as well as following the enormous task the police must fit together the reason behind such a surreal action by a single individual. 

This book comes in a time when we are more than familiar with the worryingly common stories of real-life events. This book does a brilliant job of reminding us of the lives that are changed forever in an appropriately sensitive way as it can be so easy to forget that any shooting doesn't begin and end with the event itself. The characters are very well written each with deep insight into their emotional state, except a few well-chosen characters where this insight is deliberately withheld - Claire uses this writing technique to brilliant effect to keep the reader questing from the first page to the last. 

My only small grievance (and this by no means should discourage one reading it) is that the one thing that holds this book back from that elusive 5th star is the ending is well…bland. After a whole novel of deep suspense-filled mystery - where the book prompts the reader to keep track of an ever-growing number of unanswered questions. The ending is slightly uneventful and anticlimactic after delivering a knockout end to the story of the protagonist. Nevertheless, this book is absolutely a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading anything that keeps you guessing from page to page, you won’t be disappointed.


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy to review.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Hodder & Stoughton, and the author Claire Askew. 
Another ‘middle of the road’ review from me here! It was a good premise, well told, and I enjoyed reading it, but it hasn’t really left me with any strong feelings or overwhelming impressions.
Although there were moments which were emotional and moving, the denouement felt a little drawn out and uneventful, and the characters a little under-developed. 
There were also way too many plot continuity errors which I found a little annoying. 
An easy read, would recommend for a holiday. 2.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
This is a stunning novel about the aftermath of a college shooting. It follows three characters as they are forced to face up to what has happened in their community. One is the mother of the shooter, then there is the mother of the first girl to be shot, and the third is the detective in charge of the investigation. The novel actually starts the day before and the build up is so tense because you know what’s going to happen but you’re not sure how or when. The three viewpoints make this such a heartbreaking read as we learn more about these women and their lives, and how the devastation has affected them. I highly recommend this novel.
Was this review helpful?
Starting with some significant positives, this is a well-written book with some excellent passages conveying fast-paced action and some well-drawn characters. Ms Askew has considerable potential as a writer of crime fiction, although it was disappointing to see quite so many cliches in this novel: the lead detective with a back story involving a journalist; opening the book with descriptions of the three main characters going about their routine lives before tragedy struck; and the female detective working with a stereotypical male senior officer. In fairness, these did not interfere too much with my enjoyment of the book but the writing suggests greater depth and quality is available to Ms Askew if she can develop plots that are, perhaps, more original and with more unexpected twists. Don't get me wrong, though, this is a good book and is strongly recommended.
Was this review helpful?