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All the Beautiful Lies

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Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

287 pages, Hardcover

First published April 3, 2018

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About the author

Peter Swanson

15 books8,558 followers
Peter Swanson is the author of six novels including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year, and his most recent thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,317 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,387 reviews77.2k followers
September 24, 2022
Each year I look forward to a new Peter Swanson novel as if it's Christmas morning; the build up and anticipation grow steadily until I finally hold that nugget of goodness in my grubby little hands and devour it quickly. And devour it I did. Obviously the downside to this ritual of mine is that I have to face the long, painful wait for another novel, but I think that's a pretty great problem to have, no? Whether you're new to his books or an old fan like I am, it's never a bad time to pick up a Swanson novel and there's no wrong book to begin with, as they are all meant to stand alone. I say this each time, but the cover for All The Beautiful Lies has to be my favorite to date, and it ties in well to the story's themes of passion, deceit, and just how far people are willing to go to preserve what they feel belongs to them. Also, how is it that crazy people tend to flock to each other? 

Up front I acknowledge that this book won't be for everyone. It's content can be unsettling, disturbing, and inappropriate for some audiences; however, if you're like me then those three words just peaked your interest even more than it previously was and you're desperate to read it. The story begins in present day with young Harry Ackerson arriving home to attend the funeral of his father Bill. Bill was the owner of a book store housing unique and rare books and had remarried Alice after the death of his first wife when Harry was just a teen. Harry has always had a "Mrs. Jones" type fantasy going on for his step-mom, but feels weird when Alice seems to be needy toward him in more ways than one. I actually expected this to be a majority of the plot fodder but was sincerely pleased when this was not the case, but simply a small portion of the story. Some weird things begin happening and Harry investigates alongside a few other people when they realize his dad's death may have no been an accident. You may think you have it figured out from the beginning, and you probably will have some ideas correct, but I was ecstatic to find a few twists that genuinely took me by surprise. Maybe I'm getting rusty, but it's a rare day that I am 100% taken off guard by a twist and there were TWO in this book that owned me.

Without going into the spoiler-zone, I think what makes this book so compulsive for a character driven novel is that the backstories are so intriguing. This book would not have been what it was without Alice and Jake's flashback POV's, and the alternating between time periods really kept things fresh and moving quickly. There was such a comfortable flow to the storytelling technique used, and this made it the perfect book to pick up and fly through during our latest nor'easter that came through. #springbreak2018 I wouldn't say any of the characters are particularly likable, but they are flawed and ill-fated in varying shades of gray which, of course, is my favorite way to read about villains in any time period. While this is technically a contemporary mystery, it also had a historical vibe due to those flashbacks I mentioned above; again, a really clever way to tell the story and keep the reader engaged.

If you're a book lover who is sensitive to uncomfortable sexual content and flashes of violence and death, this won't be the story for you. However, if you're looking for a bold, character driven story that deals with some very real and very timely themes, you won't want to miss All The Beautiful Lies. I found myself thinking about this book constantly while reading it and even after finishing the story. Questions ran through my mind such as "Do each of our actions truly shape the reactions of those around us?" and "Could the immoral control of those in authority be used to pass on their depraved desires in others simply by manipulating an unformed mind?" It was truly a thought provoking read, as all of Swanson's novels are, and I'm delighted to be keeping him on my auto-purchase list.

Thanks William Morrow for providing my copy!
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
306 reviews2,324 followers
April 21, 2018

I have a very smart friend that works as a literacy coach for elementary school teachers. Her advice for young students just learning how to tell someone else about a book? Four little words.


Is that genius or what? I love it. So short and simple, I'm doing it now. Without spoilers of course!

SOMEBODY WANTED: (You better hold onto your hats, ladies and gents). There are a few characters that want to engage in taboo relationships. They are socially ostracized because of vast age differences and the fact that the participants are sometimes related! As in step parent/step child. Ick. Ick. Ick. There is also a clear cut case of Mrs. Robinson carrying on with a teenage boy. As usual, Swanson has come up with some dark characters living blissfully in their own corrupted world.

BUT: Of course, when normal-minded people have suspicions about these abnormal relationships carrying on, they tend to interfere.

SO: Since the rational world interferes with the corrupted world, the unbalanced characters become completely unhinged while protecting their own sweet spot and well, WORLDS COLLIDE!!!

There you have it, people. An elementary synopsis of a complicated, layered plot!

And, just a few more words, if I may: This is a compulsive, addictable read. Swanson just keeps getting darker and more forbidden with his plots, next thing you know he'll turn into Gillian Flynn (Haaaa, just kidding, there is no one else residing at the level of our lovely dark goddess, GF).

As usual, Swanson writes in a delicious film noir way. This story is set on the coast of Maine with all the foreshadowing and dangerous mood that accompanies the angry sea. All of his books are clever puzzles with messy edges. At the heart of his novels lies the most basic of human urges: greed. Sometimes the main character is all about the money, money, money.

In this, Swanson’s latest, the main characters are driven by sex, not money. And, if you know Swanson, you know this isn’t going to be everyday lust, he has to pull down that murky shade and create an illicit, evil scenario. LET ME WARN YOU: ALL BOUNDARIES ARE CROSSED.

I wish I could give 5 stars, but I can't only because it was a bit predictable to me. I’m starting to see a plot pattern in his novels. However, I still love this one!!

This is Swanson’s fourth novel and he is extremely consistent in the psychological thriller genre. ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES reminds me most of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, mainly due to the slightly clueless, but lovable, protagonist.

All the women in this novel are strong and richly defined, definitely Swanson's strength. I highly recommend... with reservations because of the subject matter.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.6k followers
July 17, 2018
DNF at 60%

I've read a lot of uncomfortable books but I guess this is where I draw the line. If you're into step-parents being in sexual relationships with their step-children, then this is the book for you.

I still recommend his other books, specifically The Kind Worth Killing but this is a hard pass.

Update: Since people can't take a joke. It's not the relationships that are the problem, it's the pace. After 60% barely anything has happened, I'm bored and not at all intrigued. His other books were simply better. The relationships seem to be there just for the shock value and I'm tired of that as much as the alcoholic unreliable wife. I listened to it as an audiobook, so it might have not helped but after raving about his work I'm extra salty about it!
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
December 29, 2019
”’Why do you think you like mysteries so much?’ Harry asked.

‘I’m deeply skeptical of any book that doesn’t begin with a corpse.’

Harry had heard his father say these exact words, or something close to them, many times. ‘No, really. Why?’

His father frowned, thinking. ‘It’s a religion, I guess, since I don’t have a real religion. The world is chaos, and then a detective comes along and restores order. Or he doesn’t, and that’s really my favorite kind of mystery story.’”

Bill Ackerson doesn’t get to be the detective in the final pages of his own life story. Unfortunately, he has been assigned the role of the corpse. Harry does find himself in the unexpected circumstance of investigating his father’s murder.

Who would kill a harmless bookseller?

Well, my first thought would be a tug of war between two booksellers over a rare book with one of them, after a vicious but bookless tug, falling backwards into a bookshelf and being buried under a set of Encyclopedia Britannica that were jarred loose from the top shelf. This is a common hazard for booksellers, librarians, and book collectors.

Or maybe he recommended a book to some demented reader who was so incensed by the ending of the book that she felt compelled to make him pay for exposing her to such a horrible conclusion to the plot.

There is certainly some irony that a man who spent his life reading crime novels ends up the victim of a crime. Generally, readers like he and I are carefully ensconced in our favorite reading chair, getting our thrills from the plots conceived by the agile minds of writers from all over the world. Unfortunately, Bill liked to go for walks along the cliffs of Maine, and alas, that be where he met his Moriarty for real, rather in the final pages of a compelling mystery. Note to self: walks are dangerous.

Maybe Bill was guilty of being inattentive. ”And honestly, you knew him. More interested in what was happening in one of his books than what was happening around him.” It is rather dangerous being surrounded by nonreaders who just can’t begin to understand why anyone would spend hours reading when they could be watching the latest installment of some high brow entertainment, such as Survivor or The Walking Dead. Maybe someone, family member/friend, just had enough and snatched the latest Peter Swanson novel out of his hands and bludgeoned him with it. Then, they might have hauled him out to the cliffs and dumped his book bashed body, making it look like an accidental fall.

Harry has other problems besides the death of his father. His stepmother is smoking hot and seems to be lonely, if you get my drift. Then there is the odd girl who has shown up in his father’s bookstore with a story that has more than a whiff of being contrived. Suspects are slim, and with so little evidence, there is every chance that someone will…get away with murder.

Harry is surrounded by All the Beautiful Lies.

“Life asked death,
‘Why do people love me but hate you?’
Death responded,
‘Because you are a beautiful lie
and I am a painful truth.’”
---Author unknown

I know I’ve had a bit of fun with my fanciful conjectory on this dastardly murder of this obsessed book reader and collector. ”Bill’s true passion had been the acquisition of books. Finding places to put them was a chore that he only got around to out of desperation.” Could book clutter be a reason for a murder most foul? In all seriousness, Swanson hits me with some gut punching nefarious situations that make me realize that there are people amongst us who may not be evil, but they do evil things so casually that I could believe that they are missing a soul. 99% of the time they are as normal as you and me. Well, at least normal like...well...most of you anyway.

Peter Swanson writes these wonderful modern noir novels. For me, he is a bridge between the vintage noir novels and films of the 1940s and what I hope will be a new wave of noir novels. Jonathan Moore is another writer who has been writing books that make me nostalgic for those hard boiled pulps infused with the literary values of the past. I breezed through this book so fast the ink and paper nearly caught on fire. I’m already pining for the next one.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visithttp://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews504 followers
January 21, 2018
A twisted tale of desire, obsession, and deceit

I read this book with the traveling sisters group and it certainly enhanced my appreciation for the book. I loved our discussion, and I gained new insight than I would have if I had read the book alone.

This book was an excellent psychological thriller. It started off strong, in my opinion. After only the first couple chapters, the book sunk its teeth in me. Like so many other books I’ve read, this book follows a similar pattern of alternating between the past and the present – or “then” and “now” , and I think the author executed this style very well.

Alice, a young teenage girl, precocious for her age, is extremely independent. She doesn’t have a choice in the matter; she has to take care of herself because her mother is an alcoholic. However, it isn’t the two of them for long. Her mother marries a man, Jake, who is a successful banker. Pretty soon, Alice and Jake are going out to eat at nice, fancy restaurants while Alice’s mom is passed out at home, drunk. Twisted, huh? I don’t want to reveal too much more of the plot. I believe this is a book that you should go into knowing as little as possible.

So my friends, I will leave it at that. This was a fascinating, compulsive thriller that left me satiated. Was it The Kind Worth Killing? No, it was not. Was it a good psychological thriller? Yes, it was.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
960 reviews2,563 followers
December 7, 2019
In over four years of writing reviews I’ve never given a book 1*. Usually I will know when a book is not right for me and send a note to the publisher and don’t continue on with the book, therefore I don’t write a review.

However in the case of “All the Beautiful Lies” I continued to read the book to 75% to see if there was any way that I might be missing something since there were quite a few high ratings for this book. Here is what I concluded.

I found nothing redeeming about this book. The writing is mediocre, the flow is choppy and the characters are shallow and not well defined. There wasn’t a character in this book that I cared about, even young Harry, while trying to decide whether his father was “pushed” off of that cliff or just fell, gets taken in by Alice. The characters can be described as narcissistic, amoral, self indulgent, and on and on.

The mystery part of this book was easy to figure out and did nothing to redeem the quality of this book.

I’m left with wondering why, when there are so many wonderful books out there, that anyone would want to read this book. It’s not erotic, just in your face selfish sexual desire. It’s not a good mystery, it’s not well written. Jake in his younger years could easily be considered a pedophile as his tastes in females began with girls as young as 12.

I’m writing this review basically to warn off my Goodreads friends and anyone who may be reading reviews and thinking about purchasing this book so that they can get other opinions about it. Obviously we’re all free to read whatever we want but, dear readers, think again when searching for a good mystery/thriller to read and read a variety of reviews.

ADDENDUM: I don't think this author compares to Ruth Ware, I've read all of her books and never read anything indecent or amoral in her books.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
March 17, 2018
“The world is chaos, and then a detective comes along and restores order. Or he doesn’t, and that’s really my favorite kind of mystery story.”

Fast-paced mystery about a young college grad who is drawn into the deceitful web of his beautiful stepmother.

All the Beautiful Lies is primarily about Alice, a beautiful realtor whose husband recently died. But even though beautiful, cold Alice appears to be grieving for her late husband, her stepson Harry thinks there’s something not quite right about her.

The narrative switches back and forth between “Then” and “Now”. In “Then,” the reader learns more about Alice’s past and the events that shaped her. In “Now,” the reader is mostly in Harry’s mind as he struggles to put the pieces behind his father’s death together.

This book is filled with delusional characters, webs of lies, and, unfortunately, pedophilia. There’s also a deep level of uncomfortableness surrounding almost all of the romantic relationships. There are some twists, but they are fairly predictable.

My main gripe with All the Beautiful Lies is that it felt incomplete. The idea of Alice’s character intrigued me, but she, and many other characters, lacked the substance needed to take this mystery to the next level. Despite my issues with this book, I was deeply entertained by it and enjoyed how classic crime novels played a role in helping Harry figure out the mystery of his father's death.
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
788 reviews1,741 followers
January 21, 2018

An engrossing page turner that had me guessing and gasping until the very last page.

I had to finish this one and the twists were plenty throughout. I enjoyed the alternating time line of then and now. It follows the story of Harry Ackerson and the phone call he receives from his stepmom Alice that his father is dead. He is told that the police think it is suicide, but Harry is heading home to Maine to sort it out. He will miss his college graduation, but he needs to be home.
Harry begins to suspect something foul and may find himself entangled in this web of deceit.

Tense, gripping, creepy and twisted with some dark moments. Never a boring moment and I loved the suspense!

Thanks to Edelweiss for my ARC

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
January 24, 2018
Think it might be time for me to take a psychological thriller break again. They are all blending together, and the plots just seem to darn familiar. Am in the minority in my rating and review for this one, but that has happened before and I'm sure will happen again.

Loved the setting, not that many books are set to n Maine and from the descriptions it sounds gorgeous. The rest of the book was rather predictable, easy to guess what was coming next. A few of the plot twists, didn't make sense. One in particular I couldn't understand the reason for, and it kind of disappeared, no meaning forthcoming. Didn't particularly care for these characters, even Harry, who was for all intents and purposes meant to be the good guy. He was, I suppose, but also naive and some of his actions didn't make much sense either. It was fast paced, but the reason I am giving it even three stars is the ending. That came out of nowhere and was surprising.

So a rather quick but predictable read that pulled itself up by the ending.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
584 reviews18.4k followers
April 11, 2018
An excellent thriller from one of my favorite authors!

Harry is a few days away from his college graduation when he receives a phone call, on the other end on the line his stepmother informs him that his dad had a fatal fall while taking his daily walk. 

Harry packs and heads immediately to his father's house. Soon after arriving he learns that his father's death might not have been accidental at all. 

The novel takes place (mostly) in Maine and is narrated in alternating points of view. I was completely captivated by the story, it was dark and engaging. 

Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it to readers of thrillers, mysteries and contemporary fiction.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.2k followers
January 27, 2018
2.75 Stars* (rounded up)

Well Ho-Hum. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

“All the Beautiful Lies” is the story of Harry Ackerman, whose father dies right before his college graduation. His father was his best friend and life line and now he’s gone. Having already lost his mother years prior, all he has left is Alice, his step-mother. If Harry is honest, he has always had inappropriate feelings for Alice, she is beautiful, sexy and mysterious. Once his father is gone, Alice needs him and he wants to help her, he needs to help her. While in town, Harry meets a beautiful young woman named Grace, and he can’t help but feel something and wonder who she is and if she is connected to his father. Harry’s investigations lead him to uncover more about his father, Grace and of course, Alice. What he finds leads him down a crazy, twisted path, full of surprises.

“All the Beautiful Lies” by Peter Swanson was a complete disappointment for me. Having reading Swanson’s “The Girl With the Clock for a Heart” and “The Kind Worth Killing”, I was extremely excited to read this novel. Unfortunately “All the Beautiful Lies” didn’t quite measure up to those - it held no excitement and was quite predictable. Not liking the characters didn’t help matters. However, the novel was easy to read and moved quickly - I finished it in a day!

I read this with my Traveling Sisters and that made it oh so much better. We were split for this one and that made it much more interesting.

For Full Traveling Sister Group Reviews, please see Brenda and Norma’s Amazing Blog: https://twogirlslostinacouleereading....

Thank you to Edelweiss, William Morrow and Peter Swanson for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Edelweiss and Goodreads on 1.27.18.
Profile Image for Tammy.
494 reviews419 followers
April 9, 2018
Having read all of Swanson’s books, All the Beautiful Lies is almost smack dab in the middle of his oeuvre. It isn’t as compelling as his first two but much better than his last. Then again, I still may be suffering from “grip lit” or thriller burnout and others may find this to be among Swanson’s best. As you can see this is another of “lie” books rather than the formerly popular “girl” books.

There is nothing wrong with this novel. It moves along at a nice pace beginning with a college student learning that his father has died. He goes home for the funeral and learns that his father’s death may not be accidental. The book moves between “Then” and “Now” as the action in the present day unfolds and events in the past are revealed. It reads quickly, has a tidy ending and it works within the subgenre hence the four stars.
Profile Image for Shannon.
166 reviews325 followers
December 8, 2017
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson was an awesome psychological thriller! This is my second read by this author. The Kind Worth Killing was so good I just had to get my hands on this gem. It alternates between then and now with multiple POVs. All the Beautiful Lies was twisted, weird and fun as hell to read. I LOVED it!

So what’s it about? Harry has just graduated college when he receives the unfortunate phone call of his life. His father, Bill, has died. Harry returns home to his father’s house to be with his (hot) stepmother, Alice. At first Bill’s death just seems to be an accident but then the detectives start to believe there was more to it. Was this an accident or did someone murder Bill?

I really enjoyed reading the chapters of “then”, through Alice’s perspective. The girl doesn’t give a damn! I thought the twists were excellent. I didn’t see them coming!

I definitely recommend All the Beautiful Lies. 5 Stars! Thank you to William Morrow for a copy via Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,167 reviews1,212 followers
April 23, 2018
"He began to think about all the words his father read, all the plots he'd absorbed, and how they were all gone, but then he stopped himself."

And all I could think of were all the words trailing throughout this storyline and all the untapped avenues that were left darkened and not tread upon. This could have been a blockbuster of a read. Instead, All the Beautiful Lies turned into a mile high sandwich steeped with layer upon layer of taboo sauce and no burger in sight.

Peter Swanson creates a story brimming with all the Lolita dangling threads that one would care to imagine. His main character, Alice, begins this tale as a young sixteen year old beach lovely who is the apple of her stepfather's eye. After her mother's death, Alice and Jake's relationship takes on a whole different meaning.

Fast forward from the "Then" chapters to the "Now" chapters. Alice is older and living in Maine as a realtor. She's married to Bill, a successful book shop owner. Bill takes a walk one evening after work. Later, his body is found. Accident or murder? Alice contacts Harry, his son, who now spends his college graduation day at his father's funeral. We'll spend the rest of the book with naive Harry trying to figure out just what happened to his dad.

Let's be honest here. Swanson's book, The Kind Worth Killing, has been a favorite of mine. The writing was stellar. Any of my fellow mystery/thriller readers will tell you that layering a novel with excessive titilating sparks does not a thriller make. Mop up the taboo sauce and there's nothing but a hollow plot staring up at you. Murder for the sake of murder and nothing more. As readers, we want to run alongside the writer as the plot unfolds trying to predict which way this is going to go. Predictability will kill a murder mystery in a heartbeat faster than a heart attack.

All the Beautiful Lies is not gonna be for everyone. Know that going in. Swanson had the makings of a dynamite storyline with ol' Alice who put the femme in fatale. But too much leaping into the swamp instead of a solid plot leaves you stuck and uncomfortably mosquito bitten. An okay read that deserved far better from the talent of Peter Swanson.
Profile Image for Michelle .
846 reviews1,181 followers
April 10, 2018
I think anyone that reads thrillers knows that Peter Swanson is a go to author. The guy knows how to write a thriller. Period.

All The Beautiful Lies is about 22 year old Harry Ackerson who returns home from college in the wake of his fathers death. We are then introduced to Harry's stepmother Alice. She had only been married to his father for four years while Harry was away at college so he doesn't really know her all that well. Since his mother died from cancer when he was a teenager she is really the only family he has left. Alice is a beautiful woman and one that Harry has fantasized about in the past. The close quarter living situation is ... awkward... to say the least. It appears Alice also has eyes for Harry. As the police investigate his fathers death it turns out it wasn't an accidental fall at all. He was murdered. Who had motivation to kill him? You'll have to read it to find out.

This book had me intrigued from beginning to end but I just didn't love it. I don't mind reading about taboo topics in fiction but this one just lacked something that I can't quite put my finger on. I didn't find any of it all that shocking. I'm still glad I read it and I think a lot of readers will love this. A solid 3.5 stars!
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,054 reviews30k followers
March 31, 2018
4 dark and disturbing stars to All the Beautiful Lies! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing is at the pinnacle of the most gripping and disturbing thrillers I’ve ever read. Every thriller I read is compared to it, and none have measured up. I’m happy to say that All the Beautiful Lies was at that same level for me.

It all begins when Harry, a college student, receives a call from his stepmother, Alice, that his father is dead. Alice and the police believe it was a suicide, and Harry returns home to help put the pieces together. He quickly surmises that nothing adds up and finds himself surrounded by lies.

The chapters are divided into “then,” which is centered around Alice’s past, and “now,” which is focused on Harry. Every detail propelled the plot forward, and just like With the Kind Worth Killing, I began to feel uncomfortable with the beyond-troubling behavior of the characters.

Always full of twists and turns and strong female characters, I will be waiting in line for Peter Swanson’s next novel!

Thank you to Peter Swanson, William Morrow, and Edelweiss for the ARC. All the Beautiful Lies will be released on April 3, 2018.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,033 reviews361 followers
July 17, 2018
Peter Swanson is well known in thriller/suspense field and his latest book, All the Beautiful Lies, only adds to his credibility as a master story-teller.

Harry Ackerson has just completed his university studies when he receives a call from his step-mother informing him that his father has died in an apparent suicide. Harry rushes home, not even attending graduation, in grief and disbelief. His step-mother, Alice, appears to be in a state of shock. Harry believes it is his duty to comfort Alice and help sort out the bookstore that his fathered owned. As he is doing so, he sees a young woman who continually appears - at the book store, his father's funeral, wherever Harry is there she is too. Who is she and what does she have to do with Harry's father? When the news breaks that Harry's fathers has been murdered rather than dying from a accident, more questions arise surrounding all those who knew and supposedly loved his father. 

While this is told primarily from Harry's point of view in the present, there are flashbacks to the past from Alice. We learn how she came to marry Harry's father, her childhood, etc. The more we, as readers, learn about all of the characters, the more we realize there are lies, beautiful lies, but lies never-the-less swirling all around Harry. Those lies lead to danger.

I admit that I adore Swanson, especially his writing style. His books never are quite what they seem. You think you are reading Harry's story, when in fact, it is all about Alice. You think you have the "whodunit" figured out, when it is just the tip of the iceberg. Swanson is clever, toying and, ultimately, masterful in the art of suspense and I loved each and every page of All of the Beautiful Lies.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,170 reviews25.4k followers
April 7, 2018
4.5 stars
Ahhhh, this book was so good. Peter Swanson has impressed me once again! I've loved all of his thrillers so much. This one follows some extremely fucked up characters (as usual) with a passion for extremely taboo relationships, and by this I mean relationships with huge age gaps. Almost all the characters in this book get involved in a taboo relationship of some kind and all of these characters are driven by sex and lust, and this is one hell of a plot! The description of this book makes it seem like Harry is the main character, but I think this story really revolves around his step-mother Alice.

The story starts with Harry's Father dying unexpectedly, and Harry has to leave his graduation at college to attend the funeral. Alice is Harry's step-mother that he's always felt an attraction to. Then, in alternating chapters we get Alice's POV in the past, when she was a teenage girl being raised by her drug addicted mother. This book reminded me of The Kind Worth Killing with the way Swanson so effortlessly changes POV's throughout the story and keeps it interesting. This book does not have a dull moment, and the writing style is addictive, I couldn't put it down. Alice is such a unique, interesting character, and her character really steals the show for me. I was fascinated by all of her scenes in this book.

The only reason why I didn't give this five stars is because some parts were a little predictable, but at the same time it didn't take away from how much I enjoyed this story. I know some people will find this book controversial because of the forbidden, taboo relationships, but I kind of loved it because of that? Getting into the heads of all of these extremely fucked up people was really fun for me, and it's the exact reason why I always enjoy Peter Swanson's books! The plot has so many layers and there's so many twists it's hard to keep up with them (just like all his other books!) I took notes while I was reading this and I just had a great time trying to figure it all out and it still managed to surprise me.

Peter Swanson is amazing, end of story. I will read all of his books.
Profile Image for Kendall.
625 reviews623 followers
January 29, 2018
So... I think it may be time to take a break from psychological thrillers. This was my first read by Peter Swanson. I feel like all these thrillers are blending together especially with "lie" in the titles... oh my goodness! I think "lie" has replaced the "girl" titles from last year.

I do have to say that this was a very easy read! I finished this in a couple days! But, easy doesn't necessarily mean excellent plot.....

All the Beautiful Lies was a very predictable read and did not have many twists/turns. I guessed many of the twists with my fellow traveling sisters and I was super proud of myself with the detective skills BUT I don't necessarily like to have my books predictable. Also, some of the plot just didn't add up for me and there was a little bit of loose weird ends. BUT, the ending was pretty epic I have to give Swanson that. This is the reason I bumped this read up to 3 stars.

Overall, always such a fun time reading with my traveling sisters!!

Thank you so much to Edelweiss for the arc!
Publication date: 4/3/18.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books542 followers
April 16, 2018
As a big fan of Swanson's two previous books, I was really excited about All the Beautiful Lies. The premise sounded simple enough, but I trusted that Swanson would use his ability to create a twisty, clever tale out of a seemingly unoriginal idea. In a way, I was not disappointed, because it certainly was twisted. Unfortunately, I just wasn't my cup of tea. There was no character with any charisma, and even though it possessed the same compulsively readable quality as Swanson's other books, it didn't feel remarkably clever in any way. I was annoyed with Alice and Harry, who came across almost as caricatures and their actions were often quite predictable. I felt about this book a little like I felt about The Girl Before by JP Delaney. It didn't feel like the thriller I was expecting, rather a bit more sordid in the sense that I feel Swanson fell into the 'sex sells' trap. It was fast-paced, but ultimately not very satisfying or surprising. I will definitely read Swanson's next work, because I enjoyed his previous ones, but this one did not feel quite up to par, though I hate to give him a less than stellar review:-/

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,154 followers
January 29, 2018
I very much enjoyed The Kind Worth Killing and was eagerly awaiting this newest release.

The setting is Maine, and the story revolves around recent college grad Harry who goes back home after the unexpected death of his father. The publisher's blurb is the perfect description: "...a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder—a sly and brilliant guessing game." Add in a femme fatale stepmother and questionable identities and this sounds like the perfect thriller.

On a positive note, there were some surprising twists, and I eyed more than one person with suspicion, plus it was a fast-paced easy read. On the negative side, I found a few of the relationships distasteful, and some of the character's actions stretched credulity. The ending failed to satisfy me, and some of the motives failed to ring true.

So, in the end, it was a decent, but not outstanding entry in the psychological suspense category. I read this with the Traveling Sister group, and we were split on our final thoughts. Some enjoyed it more than I did. For this and other traveling sister reviews visit their blog at:

*Thanks to Edelweiss, William Morrow publishing and Peter Swanson for a copy of the e-book for review
Profile Image for Krystin | TheF**kingTwist.
448 reviews1,711 followers
August 30, 2022
Book Blog | Bookstagram

“People hate to see other people happy. Remember that.”

I’m coming away from this reading experience wondering “what was the point of this?” To be thrilling? To be thought-provoking? To be emotionally stirring? To be a commentary on inappropriate relationships? It seemed to have aspirations to be all of those things, but the execution was subpar, leaving the ideas abandoned on the page.

This novel is billed as a thriller but it was pretty straightforward. It relied too heavily on the “passing down” of pedophilic tendencies as each child victim became an adult, for me to connect with the characters or even want to get too close to this story. It was too uncomfortable, with an odd and passive “normality” given to the concepts.

Sure, some people died and there was a whodunnit element to that, but the suspense was completely diluted by the NOW and THEN style chapters. Because there was very little emotional connection between myself and the players given the unlikability of literally everyone, the THEN chapters didn’t interest me. Like, it was uncomfortable to read about how much a teen girl wanted her stepdad’s dick. No thanks.

And the attempts to “explain” the inappropriate relationships – to give some context as to why a man would sleep with a young girl (because an older woman slept with him) – just stop. Like I don’t give a shit? Why is there an attempt to manufacture sympathy?

In the NOW, Harry, the son of Alice’s dead husband, is confused but slightly disinterested in his father’s death. He's more focused on his attraction to Alice, and Alice is focused on how she married Harry’s father in the first place just to get close to his teenage son. Again, what the fuck?

Harry never really got involved with the idea that maybe his father was murdered. He never seemed to care. He dictated this flat, disinterested feeling in every chapter he appeared in because not only were his reactions to things blah, he was blah himself. Very drab and boring, lacking a distinctive personality. Like, he probably enjoys eating oatmeal on purpose. Come on.

Overall the writing is flat, with unlikeable characters and themes of sexual assault and predatory violence that was uncomfortable to read because it just didn't seem to have a point.

Decidedly not Swanson’s best offering.

⭐⭐½ | 2.5 stars rounded down
Profile Image for Danielle (The Blonde Likes Books).
585 reviews323 followers
April 6, 2018
Days before his college graduation, Harry's stepmother Alice calls to tell him that his father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Shortly after he arrives back in Maine for his father's funeral, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family - especially since he saw her at his father's funeral.

Alice is also acting strangely - she's convinced her husband's death wasn't an accident, and clings to Harry in a romantic and sexual way. 

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

When I heard that Peter Swanson was coming out with a new book, I was beyond excited! I'd loved The Kind Worth Killing, and enjoyed Her Every Fear, so I was eager to see what his next book would be like. 

All the Beautiful Lies alternates between the past and the present. We see Alice as a child, and how her relationship with her stepfather turns into something twisted and sexual, and we also see how some big events in her past led her to where she is today. In the present, most of the chapters are told through Harry's point of view, but we see Alice as an adult through the eyes of someone who doesn't know her darkest secrets. 

One thing I loved about this book is how easy it was to read. Once I got into the story, I had a hard time putting the book down, and was constantly trying to get a few pages in so I could figure out what happened. I had a few theories, and some of them were right, but there were still some reveals that I wasn't expecting. Even though this isn't an action packed, serial killer thriller, the writing was so good that it drew me in and kept me hooked, which is something I've come to expect from Swanson. 

I think the "then" and "now" chapters worked well to show how events in their past can shape someone's present self and draw correlations in their personality traits, however it did take me a little bit to get in the flow of the chapters - each chapter was pretty short, so I had to really pay attention to what timeline I was in. 

What I did struggle with was the ending and resolution of the book. I wont post spoilers, but what I will say is that it felt a little too unrealistic to me - everything wrapped up too neatly, and I found myself not believing that things would play out the way they did. Again, I don't want to give away too much, but this next part will contain mild spoilers and a trigger warning. Disbelief seemed to be a common theme across this book for me because a larger part of the story centers around sexual and romantic relationships between an adults and minors, and it was hard for me to belief that it would happen so willingly and play out the way it did. I really don't want to say more and spoil anything, but therein lies my trigger warning - if you are not okay with reading about sexual relationships between adults and minors, even if they are "consensual", this will NOT be the book for you. If you've read the book and want more of my thoughts, feel free to message me! 

All in all, I rated the book 3.5 stars because of the issues mentioned above, and rounded up to 4 due to the fact that I couldn't put it down. I'd like to thank William Morrow, Edelweiss, and Peter Swanson for my copy of the book. It was my pleasure to provide an honest review. 
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,164 reviews880 followers
June 16, 2018
Harry Ackerson is on the cusp of his graduation from college when he receives the devastating news of his father’s death from an accidental fall during his morning walk. He returns home to his grieving stepmother, Alice, who looks to him for support. They soon discover that Bill Ackerson’s death was no accident.

According to Sharon Packer, author of Movies and the Modern Psyche, “A distinguishing characteristic of a psychological thriller is it emphasizes the mental states of its characters: their perceptions, thoughts, distortions, and general struggle to grasp reality.” It’s a perfect description of this story.

Harry and Alice represent the two points of view throughout, transitioning between “then” and “now” to provide context for their actions, behaviors and mindsets in the present. Backstories of a few other secondary characters are also presented because of their relationships to Harry and/or Alice. The content is often disturbing as it deals with sexual themes of a predatory nature so be forewarned.

I read the book blurb when deciding to add this to my shelf but didn’t read it before I started listening. I highly recommend this as I was able to allow the story to unfold on a blank slate, which enhanced my enjoyment. The narrator is just excellent with her perfect pacing, inflections and style. Her distinctions were fine but it’s her storytelling skills that worked for me.

That’s all I’ll share about the story details because you deserve to read or hear it firsthand like I did. What I will share is that there is a recurring theme with the characters who inflict themselves upon society. Alice is a complex character and you can judge for yourself if her history matters in explaining the decisions she makes as an adult. Thought provoking with a provocative ending, this story enthralls you from the onset.

(I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review)
Profile Image for Crime by the Book.
192 reviews1,580 followers
December 31, 2017
Review/rating to come, but this one was not for me. This story relies heavily on twisted sexual relationships between step-parents and their step-children, an element that I found disturbing in a way that I did not appreciate. Unfortunately this one just wasn’t for me.
Profile Image for Ova - Excuse My Reading.
470 reviews349 followers
April 16, 2018
Oh my god!!! Swanson did it again, if not better than ever.

I don't know how he does it but every time he writes a book he manages to write a better cat and mouse game played.

What can I say? I love to hate his characters!!!

The story comes back and forth between past and present and different point of views. If you are into dark, psychological thrillers you SHOULD read Swanson, he is absolutely fantastic in setting the game and atmosphere between his characters. Loved the ending!

Thanks for Edelweiss and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews486 followers
February 25, 2020
From the blurb:
From the acclaimed author of Her Every Fear and The Kind Worth Killing comes a diabolically clever tale of obsession, revenge, and cold-blooded murder—a sly and brilliant guessing game of a novel in the vein of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Patricia Highsmith.

I wondered what I was going to say about this character-driven novel. Couldn't really find the words. Hence the blurb-note. But I don't want to say too much. The plot is just too complex and intriguing and I don't want to give anything away.

So here's just a few thoughts:

Right at the beginning I thought Alice had a touch of dissociative disorder. It was just an instinctive observation, which proved to be correct in the end. After reading the denouement I suddenly remembered what my first thought was, and then everything made sense. Earlier on I also figured out who the culprit was, but had to finish the book to see how it came about.

This is another whatif suspense mystery. The story is grounded in reality but with a touch of disbelief thrown in to keep a curious reader riveted to this tale. What in the world is in the water of Kennewick, Maine!! A little bit of common sense tried to steer me back to sanity. But just for a moment. The story was not finished yet, not by a long shot, and I couldn't stop reading.

I tried to figure out what Harry's father Bill, a devoted, passionate collector of murder mysteries for his book shop, Ackerson's Rare Books, meant when he said to Harry: "I'm deeply skeptical of any book that doesn't begin with a corpse". Was it prophetic words? And when Bill bought the cottage in Kennewick, which he named Grey Lady, was that ironic too?

Or was it more ironic, that Bill became the a corpse in his own life story, as though he was living in all the mysteries he so loved: ”And honestly, you knew him. More interested in what was happening in one of his books than what was happening around him.”

At one point in the relentless suspense, it was time for me to feel ice cold ants running down my spine when Jake remarked to Alice: "People hate to see other people happy. Remember that."

I thought: Of course it's true, even if you're "normal", but dear mother of mercy, how normal were these people? Can someone test the water please?

Another moment:
There's an Epstein-esque kind of issue in the book. Had me livid. An eeeek-factor, for sure. Cannot tell you who the character was, in case you consider reading it - a warning to sensitive readers. However, the author presented this aspect with great skill and insight.

What an experience. What a good read! Relaxing but gripping. Revolting but yes, real.

I haven't read this author before, but I know for sure that I would want to choose one of his other novels when I want to escape into a dark, mysterious, disturbing, and yes, clever alternative reality again.

Just remember, this novel is about obsession and revenge. . Oh....and yes ..... LIES!

If nothing else will convince you, the ending will. Guaranteed!

TIP: A strong stomach is required.
Profile Image for Julie.
70 reviews47 followers
October 7, 2020
Oh boy, there seem to be way too many inappropriate relationships, in addition to the fascination of them, going on in this story. So much that it completely skeeved me out and was a large part of why this did not work for me. The constant reoccurrence of this theme throughout this novel was just repulsive. To top it off, the manipulation of young adults rendered me extremely uncomfortable. These are all emotions I do not want to feel while reading.

Unfortunately, unlike Peter Swanson’s other works, this one was very predictable and lacked twists and turns. I dislike when I can easily tell where the plot is going way before I reach the halfway mark. The relationships between the characters, with the disturbing factor aside, seem to occur at the drop of a hat which to me seems implausible. Adding to the odd factor, the mourning of the decedent seemed very absent as you get further into this novel. Overall this novel was just very peculiar.

Having said all of the above, and my skin crawling feeling aside, Peter Swanson does offer a well-written story with a satisfying ending. It was a quick and easy read, and while I did not feel a connection to any of its characters, I did feel I was able to get to know them to the extent that I should as each character was well thought out. I have enjoyed other works by Peter Swanson, so I’m saddened to give such a low rating to ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES, but this one just did not work for me. I don’t think I will ever enjoy reading taboo topics in books and my interest will falter whenever this topic is present. While this title was totally not me, don’t discourage yourself from reading it as it may work for you. But I do recommend that readers pick up THE KIND WORTH KILLING if you are looking to start reading this author.

Many thanks to Peter Swanson and William Morrow for a finished copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liz.
402 reviews40 followers
May 9, 2018
I am a BIG Peter Swanson fan! His writing grips me every.single.time. I devoured this one! It is told in alternating time periods “then” and “now.” This kept the story moving quickly and kept me wanting more! A psychological thriller with all the twists and turns! Passion, deceit, manic obsession. Swanson lets you know exactly how far people will go to protect what they believe is theirs...This was a quick, satisfying read!

Disclaimer::This book has some disturbing content that may not be okay for some::
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