REVIEW: All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew

Thursday, 4 July 2019

All the Hidden Truths is the story of a tragic shooting at an Edinburgh college and its aftermath. It is narrated by three women at the heart of the story - the mother of a victim and the mother of the shooter, and DI Helen Birch who is tasked in solving the case. The book is both a "knotty crime novel" and a story of grief "trying to make sense of something that defies reason".

This was not the first book about school shootings that I read in 2018. It was not even the second, it was 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 2018, 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 affair) included in the narrative, Claire Askew turned a tragedy into something that the caped crusader wouldn’t look odd popping up in. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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