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Tuesday 29 September 2020

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew


A tragic and disturbing topic is a tall order for a debut novel, but Askew handles it with astonishing skill. School shootings, sadly, have happened more than once in the US, and Askew has taken the event and planted it into a UK (Scottish) college. Ryan walks into his college and kills thirteen female students. Then, himself. 

The ensuing aftermath is shared by three POVs: Ryan's mother, Moira; Ishbel, the mother of the first victim, Abigail, and lastly, DI Helen Birch, the detective in charge of the case. 

So, there is no 'whodunnit'. We know that from the get-go. It's the 'why did he do it?' and the effect on those most closely connected.

Desperation, emotion and heartbreak oozes from every pore from the start. It's a tragedy, of course, but I was starting to wonder if I could take page after page of it and, guiltily, I was rather irritated by Ishbel and her husband, Aiden, neither of whom managed to endear themselves to me. But Ishbel turns out to be a clever woman indeed.

An absolutely stunning debut by this author. Her characters are well observed and well portrayed, from the shocked and confused mother to the slimy, devious, unscrupulous and just plain odious journalist stomping into his reporting of the story with a sledgehammer. She certainly knows how to wring the pathos out of her words. 

Askew has marched into the authorial arena with flying colours, and I know I shall be reading her subsequent work.

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