Cover Image: All the Hidden Truths

All the Hidden Truths

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Member Reviews

There's been a brutal shooting at a college in Edinburgh. Thirteen young women were killed before the culprit, Ryan Summers, turned the gun on himself. This novel follows Helen, the first Detective on the case, Ishbel, the mother of a victim and Moira, the mother of Ryan in the aftermath of these horrific events.

All The Hidden Truths is an intelligent, multilayered novel which tackles an intense topic with drama and sensitivity. It's a slow burner which takes the time to truly get inside its characters' heads whilst exploring a hotly controversial topic. In that way it reminded me a little of one of my favourite authors, Jodi Picoult. This author has a knack for delving to the heart of a situation - in this case she takes a hotly topical issue most often confined to TV screens for most of us, and she makes it real. The characters are flawed and complicated, and they allow us to see multiple points of view in the aftermath of the shooting.

There was a slight sticking point for me, in that the narrators of the story lacked diversity, and I didn't click as well with them all as much as I'd have liked. I think the book could have hugely benefited and had more depth with a point of view from one of the school children, or at least someone of a different age or gender. 

I read one description of this book which called it a "knotty crime novel". I have to disagree. While the story is about a crime which has taken place, there's not really a mystery as we know who committed the crime and his fate right from the start. If you go into this expecting twists and turns, you'll probably be disappointed. But it that's not necessarily a bad thing; is a beautiful drama.

This story doesn't have a strong mystery element, but it is an intricate character study which examines contentious, sensitive issues, casting them in a new light. The author is bold in tackling issues of blame, and questioning what it really means to be a victim. She forces the reader to consider things in a different way, and for that this book should be appreciated, and it's definitely worth a read.
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Loved this book. I really liked the Edinburgh setting. The characters were believable and likeable. It was interesting to think about the parent on the other side of the shooting.
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A brilliant read! It tackles a difficult topic with a school shooting but focuses mostly on some of the parents of the students who were involved. As we already know the identity of the shooter from the very beginning, the suspense isn't centred around that and instead deals with the aftermath and how the famiies were affected by the tragedy. One of these is the shooter's mother, which opens up a lot of questions about what is the "right" way to react to the situation. Definitely one that makes you think!
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This is not the first book about school shootings I have read in 2018. It is not even the second, it’s the third. Political inaction has led people to speak out in the only way they know how - through the written word. With, on average, more than one school shooting taking place every week in the United States, this is a topic that we need to be talking about; that books need to be written about. We can’t just keep brushing it under the carpet, sharing a few sad thoughts on social media when they happen, and then pushing them away until the next time it inevitably occurs
Writing and reading is a way for us to make sense of the world in times where there is often no sense to be found but, unfortunately, I don’t think All the Hidden Truths was executed well enough to do this topic justice.
In Only Child and Oliver Loving (books I read in May and July, respectively), there was a real emotional heart to the novels, whereas All the Hidden Truths felt sensationalised; like all the meaning had been sucked out of the horrifying daily reality for so many parts of the United States, only to be sold back to the reader in a shiny, commercialised package. 
I mean, of course that is what happens when people turn tragedy into fiction - authors don’t do it for free, they’re getting something out of it. But, often, it doesn’t feel like that; instead, feeling as though they’re trying to turn it into something meaningful, to make sense of it, or just to say ‘holy-shit-look-what-is-happening-around-us’. 
All the Hidden Truths replaced all of that with a caricatured villain, as though a novel about a school shooting needed any other villain apart from the shooter and their horrendously accessible methods of acquiring guns (in Edinburgh, really? There hasn’t been a school shooting in the United Kingdom since 1996 so the setting didn’t really make sense). With the ‘evil journalist’ (practically extinct in the UK since Piers Morgan and the whole News of the World incident) included in the narrative, Claire Askew turned a tragedy into something that the caped crusader wouldn’t look odd popping up in.
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Absorbing and emotional. A tough subject to cover but the story is so well written and the characters are so real that you cannot get this story out of your head. It should definitely be on TV.
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I loved the originality of this book and I enjoyed really liking the nice characters and really hating the nasty ones! The telling and revealingbof the whys and wherefores was clever with my one complaint being the diary which for me seemed a clumsy way of explaining the reasons for the drama.
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This is a book that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it. Extremely thought provoking, topical and disturbing in places. Surprised to find it's a debut novel.
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I recently had letters home from my sons' schools advising that lockdown practices will be taking place this term, so this book struck a nerve with me and is an uncomfortable read. But the author tells the strands of the story with great poignancy and sympathy to all the characters, however they are involved with the shooting. Having read the real life account of this type of story by the mother of the Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, I found this to be an interesting fictionalised take on the same narrative. The pace does ebb and flow a little, but on the whole this is a stunning debut novel and I look forward to more from the same author.
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I enjoyed this book.  It had a story line that kept me engaged and I would recommend it.  Behind a tragedy you will find there is always more to the eye than first appears.
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I found the book a little difficult to get into but by the third chapter or so, I was well and truly in the story. It is told from three perspectives: Ryan's mother, Moira; Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and DI Helen Birch. The subject matter is hard, dark, and thought provoking, as is how the media and social media respond to such a catastrophe. I really enjoyed the conflicting narration, and felt for all the characters in the hopeless and heartbraking situation. Not to mention the finale is devastating. 

I hope this is the first installment of a DI Birch series. 


Thank you so much the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy in return for an honest review.
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A fantastic fast paced read. A young man shoots 13 women dead at a college in Scotland before turning the gun on himself- the story is told through the eyes of his first victims mother, his own mother, and the detective working on the case. Social media and news reports are littered throughout the novel, showing the feelings of the shattered community. A really unique brilliant novel.
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‘What sense can there be in any of this?’

Centred on the aftermath of a mass shooting at an Edinburgh college, when 20-year-old Ryan Summers kills 13 female students and then himself, Claire Askew’s novel is a brave attempt to explore the private grief of those affected. It focuses on three women: Moira, the mother of the killer; newly-promoted DI Helen Birch, running the investigation; and Ishbel Hodgekiss, mother of the first victim Abigail. The book makes interesting use of different types of source to develop and explore the unfolding story, from Wikipedia pages to transcripts of police interviews to online journalism. This is a useful way to explore both the feelings of those personally caught up in the crime, and also to explore the wider public reaction, as a city and a wider world tries to come to terms with the event and demands answers, explanations. If there is a reason, of someone comes up with an answer as to why Ryan Summers did what he did, then there will be a collective sense of closure. Without it, if this is just a random act, then how can we be sure that this won’t happen again, that we or those we love won’t be the next victims?

This is an interesting take on the events, yes, and the focus on the female perspective and the all-female victims is important. Unfortunately, for me, there are some weaknesses in the way it is handled. The three central characters all have other, private troubles (of course they do) that are exposed as the case develops. Which is fine to an extent, but it seems a little cliched: the emotionally-tortured police officer, the wife who learns her husband is having an affair, the secrets of your own child… And then the character of the investigative reporter Grant Lockley develops into a silly subplot in which his dubious methods are revealed in an entrapment set-up initiated by Ishbel Hodgekiss. I found this strand and the way it played out to be a little far-fetched and seemed totally at odds with the general theme of the book and its message that there are no neat solutions, that questions will always be left unanswered in an event such as the shooting.

However, in general this is a very well written exploration of those involved in an unspeakably violent act, and the tension between private grief and public reaction. It is a book about how little we really know about those we love, and how devastating revelations and the truth can be. Despite my slight misgivings over some parts of the book I found this a worthy attempt to deal with a harrowing subject.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest and unbiased review.)
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Wow what a great book, intense and scary and very emotional it’s all you’d need from a book!

It’s about a high school shooting in Scotland where Ryan goes into school and shoots 13 people dead, pupils and teachers.

The book is told from 3 angles, the shooters mum, a mum who lost her daughter and the policewoman in charge of running the investigation, 

It really is an immensely good read that had me hooked from page one, I guzzled it down in a day and was thirsty for more afterwards!

Great read a must have for the bookshelf
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An emotional rollercoaster of a book. Every page provokes consideration of why humans behave the way that they do, and subsequent reflection on the impact of these behaviours. Be prepared to cry during the epilogue!
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I thought this would be another book doing the samo samo story of high school massacre, but this was such a small element of the book.  This book is more about the families of those left behind to pick through the pieces of why, what could have been done differently and how to move on with their loss.  It has been incredibly sensitively written with empathy and skill.
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Fast paced and addictive if slightly predictable in parts this is a good easy thriller  that you can curl up and escape with
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Whilst All the Hidden Truths is the debut crime novel by Claire Askew it is definitely not a whodunnit but a whydunnit.

The story is told from 3 characters viewpoints and how the shooting of 13 students and the perpetrator impacts their lives. 

Most of the time the book is thought provoking and challenging however a couple of the secondary characters felt very cliched which was a disappointment.

That aside this is a promising debut and a book I enjoyed
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Wow this book was intense from the first page, it was emotional and shocking to read. We have all seen stories in the press about shootings in American schools, but this brings it home of how you would feel if you’re family was involved In the shooting or was a victim of the shooting!!

The story is told from 3 people’s perspectives. D.I Helen Birch whose job is to find out why Ryan went on a shooting rampage at the college.

Ishbel summers whose daughter Isobel is killed in the shooting and is finding it difficult to comprehend her daughters death.

Monica summers the mother of Ryan the shooter, has become a hated woman,a prisoner in her own home. Unable  to believe her son could do such an evil thing. Did she have any inkling what he was about to do?

A must read book that will have you gripped from start to finish.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.

This book is told from 3 people’s prospectives. D.I Helen Birch
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All the Hidden Truths is the story of a shooting in an Edinburgh College. One morning Ryan Summers goes into the college where he is studying engineering. He shoots thirteen young women before turning the gun on himself. How could this have happened? Surely there should have been some signs that this young man was a danger?

The story is told from the perspective of three women; one is the mother of the first victim, one is the mother of the shooter & one is the detective investigating the shooting.

This was a powerful debut novel. Whenever I hear of things like this shooting- & sadly they are far from fictitious- I often wonder how the family of the shooter feels. This book powerfully explores that side of tragedies like this & does it very well.

I thought this was a thought provoking book and a great first novel.I look forward to reading more by Claire Askew. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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This is not a book about a school shooter, but a book about the effect a shooting has on the lives of three women: Ishbel, a career woman and the mother of the first girl to be murdered; Moira, the retired mother of the killer; and Birch, the newly appointed police detective inspector who was a first responder to the shooting and is placed in charge of its investigation. All three are haunted by the murder-suicide (why did it happen? was there anything they could have done to stop it?), and all three are hounded by tabloid journalist Grant Lockley, who has no compunctions about what he does or says to generate clickbait from the tragedy.

Throughout, the killer himself remains enigmatic. Although we do get a straightforward ‘reason’ why he became a spree killer by the end, a key theme is that this type of tragedy is ultimately unknowable. The question is how people react to finding out their loved ones have secrets from them. Is your son a potential killer? Is your daughter really going to football practice? What does your husband get up to when he’s out of the house? And why do the public search for ways to blame women - victims, police and parents alike - for a man’s crimes?

The pervasive undercurrent of mistrust towards and fear of the men in the novel, who, friendly or unfriendly, are to various degrees unknowable and unpredictable to the viewpoint characters, is hugely evocative. As a male reader, I found this an illuminating insight into an aspect of womanhood I cannot really experience myself.

Less successful is Grant Lockley, whose pantomime villainy stands out from the otherwise fairly nuanced cast. The media as a whole are portrayed as straight-up evil, and apparently have near-limitless resources, with legions of paparazzi descending from helicopters to swarm all over the victims’ families. Given how important Lockley and the idea of image are to the story - he is structurally the main antagonist - I wish Lockley had been a woman and given the same level of nuance as the rest of the cast.

Aside from an indeterminate-ennui-under-Edinburgh-Castle opening, the book is a whiplash page turner - an impressive technical feat on Askew’s part as the story avoids using the killings themselves as narrative momentum. Police reports, diary extracts, interview tapes, newspaper articles, comments, tweets and forum threads are all threaded seamlessly and effectively into the narrative. 

A feminist take on school shootings, All The Hidden Truths asks important questions about the spectre of violence that looms over gender relations. A grimly gripping read for anyone interested in the aftermath of spree killings for the mothers of killers and their victims alike.
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