All the Hidden Truths (Three Rivers) by Claire Askew

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All the Hidden Truths (Three Rivers) by Claire Askew

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A stunning debut novel from an author we're going to be seeing a lot of in the future. A definite recommendation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473673021

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As a news item, school shootings always terrify me: the deaths are bad enough, but even the young people who survive are always going to be scarred by the fact that this was done to them by one of their number. It doesn't end on the day, either. School shootings cast a very long shadow. May the 14th had the makings of being a normal day until Ryan Summers used three modified starting pistols to shoot thirteen fellow students - and one last bullet to kill himself. We follow the story through the lives of three women: Moira Summers, the mother of the murderer, Helen Birch, the newly-promoted detective inspector who will investigate the killings and Ishbel Hodgekiss, the mother of one of the victims.

There's another problem with atrocities such as this: the killer has taken the cowardly way out, so there's no one to bring to book, but the public, and the grieving parents in particular, want answers. Why did this happen? What was in the gunman's mind? Did he work alone? Is there anyone who can be blamed for not stopping him? And, of course, there is. Ryan Summers' mother must surely have known something? You can't not know that your only child, who lives at home with you, is planning something like this, can you? There are those who feel that she is culpable and should be charged. And if she can't be charged, well there are other solutions...

Fuelling all this public outrage is a tabloid journalist, who will stop at nothing to get his story. And when I say his story, I mean the story that he wants, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what really happened. Grant Lockley has his own agenda - and he has history, personal history, with DI Helen Birch. She's suffering from inexperience and a boss who's looking to cover his own back and who probably thinks that working 24/7 means 24 hours a week for 7 months of the year. Birch could be a useful scapegoat for DCI McLeod if things go wrong.

And then there's the mother of the first victim to be shot. She's got to cope with the loss of her only daughter - her only child - in the knowledge that they hadn't parted on the best of terms the previous day. Ishbel knew that Abigail was involved in something she wasn't telling her about, but Abigail was over eighteen and Ishbel's options were limited. Then there's her husband, Aidan, who seems strangely disconnected. It won't be long before Ishbel finds out what has been hidden from her and the discovery will not be kind.

Claire Askew is a poet and this is her debut novel. Her background as a poet explains why there isn't a wasted word in the book. She lives in Edinburgh and brings the city to life, but it's not the tourist city, but the one where real people live and work. All this is great, but it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if the plotting wasn't good: but Askew's plotting isn't just good, it's brilliant. She drip feeds information to us and maintains the tension superbly. I read the book over a couple of days, reluctant to be parted from it until I found out what happened.

It's top-class writing and I really hope that it won't be long before we hear more from Claire Askew. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

When we think about Edinburgh crime our thoughts turn to Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. Claire Askew could be up there with them.

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