All the Hidden Truths: Winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Debut of the Year! Paperback – 14 May 2019
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- Publisher : Hodder Paperbacks; 1st edition (14 May 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1473673046
- ISBN-13 : 978-1473673045
- Dimensions : 13.02 x 2.54 x 20 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 432,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
(a) meticulous and compelling novel about the aftermath of a major crime and its effect on the affected families and investigating officers both. -- Ian Rankin
Gripping, heartbreaking and horrifyingly plausible. I couldn't tear myself away from this book. Claire Askew is a stunning new voice in crime fiction. -- Erin Kelly, author of He Said/She Said
As scarily plausible as it is utterly captivating, this is an absorbing and unforgettable debut., Heat
Raw, powerful, compassionate and deeply moving, with page-turning tension to the end. A stunning debut. -- Karen Robinson, Sunday Times Crime Club
Moving and memorable., The Sunday Times
Splendid debut... thoughtful and well-written., Guardian
You'll be gripped by the unexpected truths that emerge. Compelling., Marie Claire
An intricate, pacy, risky and intriguing novel. -- Jenn Ashworth
Claire Askew takes us away from the obvious plot and asks us tantalising questions... the three women... form an absorbing psychological trio for Askew's thought-provoking, upsetting entry into crime fiction., The Times
A fantastic read. -- Cara Hunter
This is a such a clever, brave book. Askew looks unflinchingly at the unimaginable, but her writing is wrought with compassion. It's as heart-rending as it is gripping. -- Sabine Durrant, author of Lie With Me
When we think about Edinburgh crime our thoughts turn to Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. Claire Askew could be up there with them., The Bookbag
(a) Fine, thought-provoking debut, Mail on Sunday
A searing, heart-breaking thriller., The Herald, Scotland
Emotionally engrossing, morally challenging, horribly topical -- Tammy Cohen
A well-written investigation of individual and collective responsibility., Guardian
Damn, this is a good book... a debut of such power, and of such verve., SHOTS
ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is a marvel... Absorbing and suspenseful, it's a thought-provoking debut novel, The Skinny
This is a gripping debut crime thriller that draws you in with plenty of accurately-observed characters and a well-drawn setting. It is the page-turner promised and well worth losing yourself in., South Wales Echo
This is a gripping debut crime thriller that draws you in with plenty of accurately observed characters and a well-drawn setting. It is the page-turner promised and well worth losing yourself in., Daily Record
This novel will no doubt be a summer hit., North London Local Magazine
There's so much to enjoy about this compelling debut. The three different viewpoints really pulled me in to the story, and got me thinking about the nature of victimhood as well as collective social responsibility. This is a timely, relevant, and thought-provoking novel. -- Sarah Franklin, author of Shelter
Really excellent - totally gripping... very realistic. One to look out for -- Sophie Cameron, author of Out Of The Blue
A novel so shockingly current that it seems to fictionalise the world even as it changes around us. -- Shelley Harris, author of Vigilante
A gripping, thought provoking and ultimately uplifting crime debut. I love that this book, which focusses on a crime against women, is itself about women and not the man that committed the crime. A story of how, when something terrible happens, you might start to pick up some of the tiny little pieces of your life and try to find a way through. The story, the characters and the city are all vivid and utterly alive and they left me feeling angry and full of adrenaline and love. -- Lucy Ayrton, author of One More Chance
Ian Rankin and the capital's other crime writers are going to have to look to their laurels. There's a new kid in town., The Scotsman
...it deserves every accolade. This psychological suspense story is one of the best books of the year...Askew is a writer on the rise., The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Claire Askew brought us a new kind of crime story in 2018. ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is a taut and thoughtful look at toxic masculinity, public tragedy and the women left picking up the pieces., The List
UK publisher Hodder & Stoughton touts ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS as its lead crime debut of the year, and it's not just hype., Toronto Star
The aftermath of an Edinburgh college shooting is seen through the experiences of three women: a victim's
mother, the shooter's mother and the detective in charge of the case. Raw, powerful, compassionate and
deeply moving, with page-turning tension to the end.
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Top reviews from Australia
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Thirteen women, thirteen dead. Ryan Summers takes a gun to an Edinburgh university campus and deliberately chooses only women to fire upon before turning the gun on himself. Three women are at the forefront of what comes next; the investigating detective, the mother of the first woman killed and the mother of Ryan Summers. These are dreadful crossroads to contemplate yet somehow the three women find themselves where no one ever wants to be.
ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is an examination of the circumstances that result in one young man choosing to take the lives of his peers. This is not a complicated novel to follow and the mounting of any soapboxes via the mouths of the characters is subtly done. ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS does not rely upon graphic descriptions of the slayings but instead deep dives into the complexity of grief felt by blindsided communities when school shootings occur. How do we find the reasons why, when there are no clues left behind? Why do we look elsewhere for blame, when it could only sensibly be laid at the feet of the shooter?
At the conclusion of ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS the reader has some post book homework to do as the novel will require that you invest some time in pondering exactly where it is that our current culture places such killings. It is felt that it was quite a deliberate choice to frame the murders from the perspective of three women around the (past) passages of the male killer. The focus here is not on the victims and what it was about them that put them into the path of a spree killer, but instead the novel examines the ripple effect of the shooting on all those left behind. There are always the helpers, the survivors, the investigators and those that not deemed worthy to be allowed to mourn.
ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is a thoughtful piece about surviving horrendous loss and the need to find rational explanations for the increasing occurrence of such acts of violence. Another day, another school shooting.
Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.
Top reviews from other countries
The subject matter of this book is topical but not easy to tackle and the author was very brave to do it, especially as a debut, but she does it with such compassion and consideration and with such a careful balance that she has pulled it off perfectly. The main reason why it works is that it is told from the perspective of three people on every side of the tragedy – the mother of the shooter, the mother of the first victim and the police officer in charge of the case. These different perspectives make us sit and think about the tragedy from every angle and in ways we perhaps don’t think about these tragedies. It is very easy, following these shootings, to consider and empathise with the victims and they families, but the ramifications are much wider and the victims go beyond the families of the murdered children; this book reminds us of that.
The characters in this book are as complex as the issues they are struggling with. The author carefully balances things so that everything is not clearly black and white. The victims are not painted as angels and the shooter not as pure evil because we all know that life is much more complicated and nuanced than that. This is what makes the book so compelling. We all want things to be clear cut, but they aren’t and what makes these shootings so terrifying is that they are often carried out by seemingly ordinary people who displayed no outward violent tendencies beforehand and there is no obvious motives. And to their families who loved them it is especially difficult to accept that their children were capable of doing what they did. These are complicated issue that are hard and unpleasant to face but facing them is necessary to tackle the problem.
The setting of the book is Edinburgh, which I think makes it more immediately relevant for those of us the the UK who sees these things happening at arms’ length in the US where we have no direct connection. It has been a long time since we had a mass shooting in a school in this country thankfully so we may feel that we are immune from the constant fear and horror that regularly hits communities in the States. However, with a spate of gun violence in London over the past few months, this issue is one that is becoming more and more relevant here and we should not be complacent about it. The Edinburgh of the book is not the side the tourists see, but is the every day side with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, which makes the extraordinary events even more shocking.
This is a book that will make you think. About what motivates someone to commit this type of atrocity and can we ever really know. Is there a way to spot and stop these people before they do what they do, and if not, how far can blame extend beyond the actual perpetrator. About the effects this has on the victims’ families, the wider community, the police and how these people react and can be helped afterwards. And about how we, as onlookers, get our news and how the press report these things. One of the reporters in this book is the most loathsome character I have read in a long time, partly because his actions are believable and, if the portrayal is in any way accurate, we have some very hard questions to ask ourselves about what kind of people we have become if we are willing to tolerate this behaviour.
This is a must-read book, which raises a lot of difficult questions to which there are no simple answers but they are questions that we need to ask ourselves. I know I will return to this book again, and recommend it to my friends as a worthwhile read. I can’t give it a better endorsement than to say that, after reading the ARC, I have gone out and bought it in hardback to add to my shelf.
The story is set in Edinburgh. The author’s precise descriptions, background colour and general approach show the influence of Ian Rankin. At times I expected Rebus to be called into the investigation. Claire Askew’s novel has more emotional power, though, drawn from three dominating female characters. They are introduced separately in the first chapters before fate brings them together. The three seemed drawn from the same model – maybe that was deliberate on the author’s part.
The plot is certainly plausible, with one or two doubtful but peripheral elements. Wikipedia entries and social media exchanges are used cleverly to carry the narrative forward.
The author draws on real events to design her fictitious scenario, making for credibility as noted. There is a downside to this and an important one. Such real-world tragedies are extensively reported and agonised over in live time – I am not sure that fiction can match this. Additionally, the non-fictional work of Michael Moore and Asne Seierstad is much more potent. Hidden Truths was rather a pale imitation of life.
It will be interesting to see if the author builds on her success to make Detective Inspector Helen Birch a fixture in the world of crime fiction.
We meet three characters in this book: Moira Summers, Ishbel Hodgekiss and DI Helen Birch and the novel is told from their perspectives. The three women whose voices we hear from are very different and until the events that take place at the start of this novel occur, they have never come across each other. But beyond the pages, the lives of two of the women will be linked forever by the tragedy they are scarred by.
No one knows why Ryan Summers took it upon himself to enter the Three Rivers college campus and murder thirteen young women and then turn the gun on himself before the police had the chance to apprehend him. What could drive someone to commit such an abhorrent, cowardly act? DI Helen Birch has recently been promoted and she is handed the complex case. She knows that the weeks ahead aren’t going to be easy for her community, especially for the families of the victims, and the angry public, who desperately need answers.
The characterisation in this book is superb; the author takes us to some very dark places in the minds of some of the individuals in this book which made it a compelling page-turner. It is very much a whydunnit as the police and the families of the victims try to work out what caused Ryan to murder so many of his fellow pupils. Claire Askew explores some interesting themes, including the dangers of social media and freedom of the press. It also examines the public’s perception of tragedy and what happens when people willingly express their feelings and opinions online. One journalist in particular really got under my skin, his character brought to mind the Leveson enquiry which took place in the UK several years ago and it made me angry to think that this is the way how some members of the press behave.
I was interested in the fact that Claire chose to set the novel in Edinburgh as gun crime, particularly on a mass scale is rare, even un-heard of in the UK. Choosing to set her novel here in this country must’ve required a great deal of research, it would be fascinating to find out more about why she decided to write about this particular crime and how she went about her research.
This was a gripping debut which introduces an exciting new voice in crime fiction. If you’re looking for a psychological thriller which leaves plenty of room for thought then I highly recommend this book.
Poet Claire Askew’s debut novel is an utterly riveting and emotionally charged exploration of an Edinburgh school massacre and the characters at the centre of the storm. When twenty-year-old engineering student, Ryan Summers, walks into the campus of Edinburgh based Three Rivers college with three modified starting pistols and shoots thirteen female students dead before taking his own life, it is the start of a futile search for answers. For Ryan’s widowed mother, Moira Summers, it serves as an appalling conclusion to her involvement in the life of her increasingly sullen son. For Ishbel Hodgekiss, the mother of first victim nineteen-year-old Abigail, it poses the question of why her child was fatally shot first and a gradual realisation that her daughter was growing up and growing away from her into someone she no longer knew. Tying together the testimonies of these two grieving mothers is the newly promoted and ready-made scapegoat for her beauractically-minded superior, DI Helen Birch, a compassionate and humane investigator with a personal history with Grant Lockley, the tenacious hack whose inflammatory reporting is inciting public fury.
Everyone wants answers, from Moira who questions her parenting, to the victim’s families demanding justice, the tawdry journalist using it as his opportunity to hit the big time and the social media trolls. As DI Birch percipiently notes ahead of even beginning the investigation, “there was no way to ‘solve’ a crime like this: there was no logical end-point, no closure to be found.” Difficult to classify, this novel is not a whodunnit and given the nature of the event and the inevitable lack of accountability can never be a thorough whydunnit. Instead of offering answers and assigning blame, Askew serves up a realistic look at the devastating fallout on a community, narrated by three of the women whose lives are transformed by the tragedy. The initial police response as they attempt to get a handle on the massacre and play catch-up is relayed through the point-of-view of newly promoted, DI Helen Birch. It reflects not only the panic but the pressure of handling an event of such unprecedented public scrutiny in which emotions run high. Interwoven seamlessly within this wider police response are the points-of-view of Moira and Ishbel as a steady drip-feed of information adds clarity to the picture.
Askew’s characters are beautifully flawed and all the more realistic for being so, from harried and grieving Moira who ignores the changes in her son, to under pressure and frazzled DI Helen Birch whose actions are driven less by protocol and more by her heart, and Ishbel Hodgekiss whose increasingly fractious relationship with her daughter, work pressure and failing marriage has seen her retreat from family life. Given there is no rule book or guide to handling such a messy and thankfully rare incident in the UK, Claire Askew’s novel does not attempt to parcel guilt off or assign blame. Instead what it does do is is explore how a community and the individuals most impacted by the event come to terms with the heartbreaking trauma and attempt to move on.
The use of Wikipedia entries, tabloid reports, social media and message boards sprinkled throughout adds an extra dimension to the novel and allows Askew to factor in just how much public vitriol drives the response and action after the massacre. From conspiracy theorists to MRA forums and sensationalist tabloid reporters digging for dirt, everyone seems to have an opinion and want a piece of the drama.
My slight disappointment was a rather too neat resolution and what felt like an overly simplistic attempt at some kind of closure after such a wonderfully authentic insight into the complexities of a shocking crime. The utter futility of explaining the actions of someone who can never be held accountable or supply answers is never going to deliver a perfect, one size fits all solution and Claire Askew recognises this. The novel does does lose some of its penetrating focus into the last third, however for a debut novel All The Hidden Truths is difficult to fault.
Unforgettable, haunting and surprisingly tense, All The Hidden Truths is a timely tale and a damning indictment on the behaviour of today’s society in the digital age. Askew’s accomplished debut is eloquently written and narrated with an well-controlled pace throughout.