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DI Birch #1

All the Hidden Truths

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In the aftermath of a tragedy, the world needs an explanation.

In Edinburgh, after the Three Rivers College shooting, some things are clear.

They know who. They know when.

No one can say why.

For three women the lack of answers is unbearable: DI Helen Birch, the detective charged with solving the case. Ishbel, the mother of the first victim, struggling to cope with her grief. And Moira, mother of the killer, who needs to understand what happened to her son.

But as people search for someone to blame, the truth seems to vanish...

376 pages, Paperback

First published August 9, 2018

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About the author

Claire Askew

21 books105 followers
Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel, All the Hidden Truths, was the winner of the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Peggy Chapman-Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award. Claire holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and has won a variety of accolades for her work, including the Jessie Kesson Fellowship and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.

Her debut poetry collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016 and shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and a Saltire First Book Award. In 2016 Claire was selected as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion, and she works as the Scotland tutor for women's writing initiatives Write Like A Grrrl! and #GrrrlCon.

Claire Askew was born in 1986 and grew up in the Scottish Borders. She has lived in Edinburgh since 2004. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian, Poetry Scotland, PANK, Edinburgh Review and Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry (Vagabond Voices, 2014), and have been selected twice for the Scottish Poetry Library's Best Scottish Poems of the Year. In 2013 she won the International Salt Prize for Poetry, and in 2014 was runner-up for the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for Scottish poets under 30. She runs the One Night Stanza blog, and collects old typewriters (she currently has around 30).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 347 reviews
Profile Image for Amanda.
710 reviews239 followers
October 4, 2018
Wow this book was intense from the first page, it was emotional and shocking to read. We have all seen stories in the press about shootings in American schools, but this brings it home of how you would feel if you’re family was involved In the shooting or was a victim of the shooting!!

The story is told from 3 people’s perspectives. D.I Helen Birch whose job is to find out why Ryan went on a shooting rampage at the college.

Ishbel summers whose daughter Abigail is killed in the shooting and is finding it difficult to comprehend her daughters death.

Monica summers the mother of Ryan the shooter, has become a hated woman,a prisoner in her own home. Unable to believe her son could do such an evil thing. Did she have any inkling what he was about to do?

A must read book that will have you gripped from start to finish.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Pauline.
746 reviews
June 25, 2018
All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew was a very disturbing and emotional story of a shooting at a college in Scotland. Twenty year old Ryan walked into his college and shot dead thirteen female students and then himself. The community are devastated and angry and the anger turns on Ryan's mother whom the police say is innocent. This is a heartbreaking story that will stay with me for a long time.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews993 followers
March 11, 2018
Oh my word this book. Such beautifully poetic writing, such a topical and emotive subject, ripped straight from the headlines and given a human, heartfelt and authentic voice.

A genuinely absorbing and incredibly emotional character drama centering around the aftermath of a college shooting and really getting down to the realities of those left behind, those pulled into it and takes a harsh and edifying look at our press, our social media and our attitude to traumatic events.

I can see why it was hotly contested. This is a truly amazing read. Full review and more on this closer to the August publication.

Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,785 reviews1,626 followers
August 8, 2018
'All the Hidden Truths' is Claire Askew's debut novel, inspired by real-life events happening throughout America, and is both highly compelling and utterly heartbreaking. It was the winner of the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Peggy Chapman-Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award under the working title, 'Three Rivers'.

The book opens the day before a mass shooting takes place at an Edinburgh, UK, college campus in which thirteen women are killed before shooter Ryan Summers turns the gun on himself. The question everyone wants answered is why? In the aftermath of the tragic incident a variety of perspectives come to the fore, in a multi-narrative approach. These include Helen Birch a newly-promoted Detective Inspector, Ishbel Hodgekiss the mother of Abigail the first girl to be shot, and the mother of the gunman, Moira Summers, and follows each of their thoughts, feelings and diffculties that emerge as a result of the murders.

Although this appears a brutal story on the face of it and is most certainly a powerful one, Askew manages to make it compassionate and moving too. She bravely adds that all of the dead are victims including the killer, as well as all of their families. She also weaves into the story the impact of the media and the increasing helplessness felt by all affected as they desperately search for the reason behind the slaughter. Towards the back end of the book secrets start to be revealed and we are told the motivations behind the event. As the reasons are exposed some press for retribution and others for reconciliation.

Of all of the thrillers I have consumed this year so far this was the one that had the greatest impact on me. The events are unfortunately very believable especially in the times in which we now live and this has to be one of the most accomplished and remarkable debuts i've read in a long time. Truly thought-provoking, I have no doubt that this will be a bestseller. A well deserved five-stars.

Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,195 reviews9,473 followers
August 24, 2018
The utter worthiness of this school shooting novel is very tiring, as are the constant gushings, squalls, fountains, nay, veritable typhoons of human tears on every page. Well, it's a sad subject. I suppose it’s the Scottish equivalent of We Need to Talk About That Psycho Kevin but written as a sort of crime novel. Given the proliferation of mass shootings I haven’t come across that many novels about them, maybe it’s too grisly a subject. But there are so many crucial aspects to these crimes. This novel creeps up towards the most crucial and then veers away at the last moment.

Because of the UK’s draconian gun control there have been only three mass shootings here : Hungerford, 1987 (16 dead), Dunblane, 1996 (17 dead) and Cumbria 2010 (12 dead). The three perpetrators were crazy loners, not students shooting other students, so the difference between the UK and the USA is enormous. This novel imagines a typical US-style college shooting happening in Edinburgh.

Since these shootings are crimes which solve themselves – it’s never a whodunnit situation – the police response is difficult. What is their function? Clair Askew says pretty much all they can do is try to find out why the crime happened. But that ain’t easy – we’re still waiting for any kind of motive for the worst mass shooting in the USA, for instance, which was Stephen Paddock’s killing of 58 people in Las Vegas ten months ago. We’ll probably never find out.

This novel starts to develop the possibility that the shooter of 13 women, 20 year old Ryan Summers, conceived a hatred of females because the girls at the college never wanted to go out with him because he was a creepy weirdo, so I thought we were going to get an exploration of the (so-called) incel psychology – that would have been interesting. But Claire Askew wanted to write about the disgraceful nature of tabloid journalism instead – nothing wrong with that, it’s also a good subject. And also, she focuses laser-like on the awful BLAME THE MOTHER feelings that swill around these events, if the shooter happens to be from a broken family and living with his mother. Kind of misogynistic reaction, when you think that none of these school shooters are themselves female. It’s like oh no, another male has shot a lot of women – let’s find a woman to blame!

Very easy for any novel about school shootings to get overwhelmed by the number of issues involved.

Reviews of this book say stuff like

A chilling, relentless and needle-sharp thriller that will stay with you long after you reach the final page.


A stunning new voice in crime fiction

Well, not really. Not bad though, not bad. I’d say 2.75 stars.
Profile Image for David.
45 reviews4 followers
May 6, 2023
The author has a well observed attention to detail and behaviour, as within the first few pages I was already engaged with the main characters.

This was a creative approach to a crime story where the main hinderance to the police investigation wasn’t at the hands of the perpetrator’s ingenuity, but instead caused by journalists and public intrusion through use of social media. I did enjoy the underlying dislike of modern tabloid journalism, as for me the most despised person in the book is not the murderer, instead it’s the slimey journalist.

The majority of the book deals with the anger, heartache and despair in the aftermath of an horrific crime. Totally engrossing.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,642 reviews598 followers
July 24, 2018
This is the story of a tragedy, seen through the eyes of three women. One day, a young man walks into a college in Edinburgh and kills several people, before killing himself. We see events from the points of view of D.I. Helen Birch, in charge of the case on the first day of her promotion, Moira Summers, the mother of the shooter and Ishbel Hodgekiss, the mother of Abigail, the first victim.

Author, Claire Askew, skilfully weaves these points of view, as the story unfolds. This is not only about the crime, but casts a sharp look at how such events unfold – including the media scrutiny and the, now expected, outcry on social media. Askew, herself, looks at the shades of grey beneath the black and white of events. There are the unearthing of secrets by journalists, the outcry of hate, aimed at Moira, and the reasons behind Ryan Summers actions.

Beautifully written, this would be an excellent choice for a reading group, as it has so much depth and will open all kinds of discussion – from the role of the media, the judgement of social media, to family dynamics and how well you really know those you love. I really found this a moving and touching read and hope to read more by this author, in the future. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

Profile Image for Aoife.
1,291 reviews549 followers
October 20, 2019
I received this book from the author/publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When a lone gunman enters his college in Edinburgh and shoots dead 13 young women, before killing himself, he leaves behind him a trail of destruction, grief and questions. DI Birch attempts to lead the police force dealing with the traumatic aftermath, the questions of why Ryan Summers would do such a thing, and attempting to shield his family left behind from terrible threats. Ishbel and Moira, two grieving mothers find their lives changed forever.

This is a slow paced crime novel follow three different people left behind after a terrible tragedy. The first 20% or so of this book deals with the day before, of and after the shooting, and while we don't get any perspectives of the shooting while it happened, readers so get an idea of the scenes from a policeman who entered the building right after the attack and a media run through of the event.

I enjoyed the exploration of each characters' shock and grief following the shooting, as well as the difficult relationship they both had with their children. Moira's POV in particular was, both terribly sad and intriguing as she had to figure how to process her grief over her son while all too aware of the grief he had caused others because of his terrible act of violence.

The book does have that trope of a lead detective who has something in their past that seems to have given them a personal stake in the case. I don't always like this and it was okay in this book - I liked that the DI didn't let her history completely cloud her judgement and I do feel like her not having that backstory wouldn't actually have affected the story that much.

I did have some issues with the portrayal of media in this story, once again, like most thrillers/crime books I read. There was a lot of immoral, tabloid-esque stories published about the shooting and one journalist who basically went against any kind of newsroom rules ever. I'm not a fan of the terrible journalist and inaccurate/immoral reporting and sensationalist media due to us living in a world now where there is such distrust in legitimate media and 'fake news' is thrown about.

I did accept the storyline with the journalist as it became more a part of the plot and i liked how it all resolved.
Profile Image for Laura.
924 reviews72 followers
August 26, 2018
Book reviews on www.snazzybooks.com

All The Hidden Truths is a stunning, emotional read which addresses some very difficult themes with sensitivity and realism. Although classed as a crime novel, this novel feels more like a portrait of the feelings and effects of such a horrible crime - a college shooting - on a community, and the way it's dealt with by police, families of the victim and, most powerfully for me anyway, the family of the killer. There are still elements of your 'typical' crime novel, such as a police investigation and a narrative from the perspective of the detective, but because we know almost right from the start who is to blame, and that person is dead, it's not about who did it but why and what happens afterwards. Without the 'whodunnit' element that I'm usually so interested in, I wondered if I'd be as engrossed - I definitely was! I raced through this novel and couldn't put it down.

There's so much grief and heartbreak within these pages, and I really felt for the people living through it; Claire Askew makes you really consider what this situation must be like for everyone. Some of the characters are truly horrible people (and it's obvious who falls into this category once you start reading) but, for the most part, the people in this novel feel real, each with their own problems and flaws, and it really highlights the way that everyone deals with terrible situations differently. Askew's portrayal of Moira, the mother of the gunsman Ryan, was incredibly powerful to read as she battled with her guilt at not having seen it all coming, as was Ishbel's struggles to come to terms with the death of her daughter and the breakdown of her marriage. I also really liked DI Helen Birch, and hope to see more of her in the future - fingers crossed for a second book featuring Helen!

Claire Askew beautifully weaves together various stories and experiences, all around one central storyline - that of the college shooting - and creates a truly heart-breaking, gripping read.

* Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write
an honest and unbiased review. *
Profile Image for Peggy.
363 reviews26 followers
August 11, 2022
Three River's College is the scene of a mass shooting. Thirteen young women have been killed and the shooter Ryan Summers has killed himself. DI Helen Birch newly promoted is the first on the scene. The aftermath will reveal secrets of those who were involved in this tragedy. So many questions and human nature always has an answer even if it is wrong.
The story is about Ryan Summers mother who not only has to deal with what her son has done but his death and finally the media. Isabel the mother of the first victim and more importantly how social media plays a part in the mass hysteria and last the press who will do anything to get their story. This book dealt with a horrific subject which is still happening but more importantly how two mother's dealt with what had happened and how the public and the media dealt with them. A very powerful read.
Profile Image for Sarah.
2,608 reviews170 followers
August 30, 2019
As soon as I read the blurb for his book, I knew I wanted to read more. Sadly numerous deaths in school shootings are not just fiction, it has happened far to many times than it should. I for one was really interested in knowing the whys and hows.

I have to say this is more than just a crime novel. Seeing things from three different perspectives really takes you deep into this story. I had every empathy for both mothers. Trying to put myself mentally into their shoes and how I would feel and react if it had been my son or daughter. You really get a sense about these women and I took to both of them.

The story centres more on the two women and how they try to comprehend with what has happened. The police presence is felt though as people are out for blood at what has happened. Like the reader, they want to get behind the why and how of how this happened and the pressure is on them for answers. Throw in an unruly journalist and you really have a page turner of a read.

All The Hidden Truths makes you question how well you know someone and what is going on inside their head. It is at times a sad and emotional read yet it gets more compelling with every new chapter reached. It isn’t a fast paced, action packed thriller, yet it makes for a truly compelling read that I couldn’t wait to get back to every time I put it down. My first book by this author and certainly won’t be my last.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and not biased in anyway.
Profile Image for Kim.
2,075 reviews
February 5, 2021
Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland. This is the tale of a college shooting incident and three women who are deeply affected by the incident: Moira, the mother of the killer; Ishbel, the mother of the first victim and Helen, the police officer assigned to investigate the shooting.
Not only the shooting affects these three women but also the attentions of unscrupulous investigative journalist Grant Lockley.
Moira's son, Ryan, shot and killed 13 young women at his college before shooting himself, using three starting pistols that he had modified to shoot bullets. In the aftermath, considerable attention is turned on her, a single parent, with many thinking she should have known what her son was planning and stopped or reported him....
Ishbel's daughter, Abigail, is the first victim but the journalist starts to dig into the family and makes several scurrilous suggestions about Abigail and her boyfriend (who was shot and injured)....
Police officer Helen has just moved the headquarters and this is her first investigation as a senior officer. Under pressure from her unsympathetic boss, she tries to help both Moira and Ishbel both of whom she regards as 'victims', whilst also trying to deal with the journalist with whom she has had run-ins in the past....
This was a gripping read as revelations about the incident and its main characters come thick and fast. Also enjoyed the setting, having lived and worked in Edinburgh for a time myself and therefore being familiar with the areas being described, enhanced the reading experience for me and I'm looking forward to the next in the series, which I already have on Kindle - 9/10.
Profile Image for Kate Southey.
214 reviews8 followers
May 16, 2019
Oh dear. This is, I think the second time that I’ve poorly rated a book that I���ve read because of Netgalley. I did read the book to the end, and I did want to find out the ending but there were so many continuity errors that I just couldn’t quite suspend disbelief. I am sure that many readers less pedantic than I will enjoy this book and I did enjoy parts of it.
The book opens with Moira and there follows a miserable chapter about a miserable woman failing to enjoy a nice sunny day.
Chapter two, ah a new character! But, oh dear... it is DI Birch. Recently promoted and having recently bought her dream home Helen Birch is also a miserable woman.
Chapter 3, another new character, this time Ishbel who is waiting to collect her daughter from football practice. Ishbel does “not entirely approve of her daughters continuing interest in football” You’d be forgiven for thinking that her daughter Abigail was 16 and taking her GCSEs; Mum collecting her from school after an activity, that activity interfering with school work but no, it turns out that Abigail is a grown woman of 19! Ishbel enjoys passive aggressive sniping with both Abigail and her husband Aidan who is a similarly passive aggressive oaf.
The novel centres around the actions of Ryan Summers, Moira’s son as he commits the hideous crime of shooting multiple fellow students at the college he attended. I am hoping that the Scottish education system is different to the English one, because here the bulk of students at FE colleges are 16-18 rather than the 19-27 spread that the author focuses on. These are adults and yet their behaviour is infantilised by their parents, the police and the author. Having adult children of a similar age spread myself it just didn’t feel realistic at all. I think it lost some of the emotional impact because of this.
Turning to ‘the day’ itself, things start to get really silly. Ishbel is at work, for some reason the author is very evasive about what Ishbel does and when it is revealed it bears no relevance to the plot at all) and a colleague mentions that on Twitter there are reports of a shooting at the college and Ishbel panics, that is understandable but what happens next isn’t. She receives a phone call from a Dr friend at the A&E dept telling her that no victims have been brought in yet but that she should go there as it would be the best place to find out about Abigail. Even IF you can ignore the fact that no Dr would ever make such a call, especially when a major incident has been declared but the author tells us that there are 7000 students at the campus. So there is a 1 in 7000 chance that Abigail is involved yet a perfectly rational Dr suggests that a mother of a pupil drives straight to A&E. Okaaay then.
This could so easily have been made more likely if the Dr had phoned her after seeing Abigail or her name, indicating that she was involved.
The book is then largely devoted to the aftermath. This is interesting and emotional at times but ruined by the journalist covering the story. Sometimes he is referred to as a columnist but the pages that are written from his POV are displayed exactly how articles in local newspapers are displayed with hyperlinks to other relevant articles etc which is not at all like a column. As they are displayed as articles they grate as there is no way on earth that a journalist would be allowed to put such blatant opinion into the piece, accusing people of doing things etc. The tabloid press are terrible, but they are also clever enough to operate within the law and most of what he says is libellous.
On a positive note I did really enjoy how the author used Wikipedia pages, news articles, forum posts etc to break up the narrative. The comments on the news articles are brilliant and totally realistic.
The author introduces conspiracy theorists and the suggestion that Ryan was an ‘incel’ a mysoginistic group who refer to themselves as involuntarily celibate and blame women for this fact. While this has been recently found to be the reason behind a spree killing, the author doesn’t elaborate on this which is a shame.
The aftermath period of the novel is more enjoyable than the pre killing and it kept me reading to the end. While DI Birch becomes someone you a cheering on, both Moira and Ishbel remain mostly unlikeable until the final denouement. If only the author had shown the women as they were then for the entire novel.
Profile Image for The Hopeless Romantics Book Blog.
737 reviews203 followers
June 23, 2018
Claire Askew's "All the Hidden Truths" is one of those books that I could see being turned into a BBC drama. It has that feel to it. The story line is very topical and the way it is told (from three points of view) makes it very emotive for a number of reasons. This isn't a story about "what happened" or "when it happened" or even "who done it." "All the Hidden Truths" is about "why" and that is what each of the main characters strives to discover but equally struggles with when certain truths come to light. This isn't an easy book to read but what transpires and the fall out from that is definitely eye opening, thought provoking and more importantly, believable.

When I started reading this book, I initially found it a bit slow. I'd read the synopsis some time ago but had forgotten what it was about to be honest. All I knew was that (at the time) I had wanted to read it as I'd requested it from netgalley. 10% in and I was still wondering where the plot was heading but fear not. The further I progressed, the more everything fell into place. The start was about giving me some background into the three main characters. This background provided building blocks for the main plot of the story and some of the sub plots too. It helped provide meat to the bones of this story (for want of a better phrase) and the more I read, the more I got it.

"All the Hidden Truths" was a story about how three women learn to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. It gives us an insight into the power of social media and the influence it can have both on individuals but also in terms of how stories are manipulated and sensationalised in order to get viewer numbers up. This really was a heart breaking story where no one was a winner and where grief and guilt played such a huge part.

If you loved "13 Reasons Why," then I'd definitely say give this crime drama a go. Like I said, it's not about the who, what or when but more about the why! Although the story did feel a little bit long at times, overall, it did keep me engaged because I was desperate to know the answer on everyone's lips. "Why did Ryan Summers do what he did?"

"All the Hidden Truths" gets ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,241 reviews122 followers
July 22, 2018
All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew is a gripping psychological thriller about a college student walking into Three Rivers college and shooting and killing thirteen women and then himself.
The story starts with Moira Summers witnessing the aftermath of an accident with a young guy gets impaled on a construction site. Her mind then wonders to her son Ryan. She wonders what would she do, if something ever happened to him.
DI Birch is on her way to work, when she hears on the radio of a dispatcher asking police to got to Three Rivers College. DI Birch says she is on the way to the scene. They first think it’s a hoax of a shooter on the premises, but when DI birch gets to the college. They find out that it is really happening. A college student Ryan Summers has killed thirteen women and then kills himself.
This is an emotional and topical drama of the aftermath of a school shooting. At first, the author does not give everything away first hand. But by bit by bit, you find out what has happened and why. The story is told in several points of view. Firstly, we learn what kind of person Ryan summers was and also his mother and the guilt that she feels of what her son did. And also what lead up to that day and the events. But also, by the press, in particular Grant Lockley, who lie and cheat and force their way into people’s lives. There is also D.I. Birch who is doing everything she can to not only find out what happened. But has to deal with Grant Lockley, who she has previously had problem with when she was younger concerning her brother Charlie. So she has personal issues with him.
I really enjoyed this. I found this realistic, gripping and thought provoking.
Thank you Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for a copy of this book.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,354 reviews452 followers
October 26, 2022
Not a whodunnit but a whydunnit. This Edinburgh-set procedural is the first of a series, one I intend to continue reading. Three central characters, all women, bring to life the damages done to a community after a seemingly senseless mass shooting in which thirteen young women are mowed down at a University. So we get inside the heads of Moira, mother of the perp, Ishbel, mother of the first victim, and DI Birch, who will be the featured character in the ensuing series who has a history of her own. The role played by a truly odious "reporter" takes this into unchartered territory in a contemporary thriller. Here's hoping future installments have such an original twist.
Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,491 reviews469 followers
July 12, 2019
Claire Askew’s All the Hidden Truths is one of those books I’m conflicted about. On the one hand, it kept my attention. On the other hand, I had expected a lot more from it. I think, mostly, it comes down to my preference when reading mysteries and thriller: I prefer more action than this one offered, with this one looking more at the consequences of the crime rather than working out who was behind the crime.

All the Hidden Truths is a book that is easy to devour, one that sucks you in with ease. Although the aspects that are unclear at the start are easy to work out once the story gets going, it does have you turning the pages to see how everything comes together. Mostly, though, it’s the emotion that has you turning the pages. It’s not quite as powerful as some of the books I have read surrounding this topic, but there are certain points that make you stop and feel.

Despite this, I had wanted more. I like more twists and turns, more action, in my mystery novels, and this one felt a bit too easy for me. It was an interesting read, but not quite everything I had expected.
Profile Image for Paula Sealey.
515 reviews76 followers
March 28, 2018
This is a heartbreaking story following the aftermath of a school shooting in Scotland. Moira, the killers mother, not only has to contend with the death of her only child, but the wrath of a grief stricken community. Ashbel is the mother of Abigail whose daughter was killed and is desperately trying to come to terms with her loss and Helen is the Detective Inspector leading the investigation into the tragedy.

The journey is a very emotional one as a picture of events leading up to the murders is revealed through the three women. I highly enjoyed Askew's writing and her character development was excellent, everyone felt so real and the situations they find themselves in believable. A moving read that will stay with you.

*I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
910 reviews256 followers
March 27, 2020
This is the kind of book you pick up and cannot put down again until the bitter end - quite a feat, considering that there is no real mystery (the crime happens in the first chapters, and we know even before then the whodunnit and the how), the case is clear-cut, and the motivations fairly apparent throughout. None of those statements are criticisms: Askew somehow manages to spin a captivating tale where not very much happens and yet you can't look away for a moment.

Immediately requested the sequel from the library, I'll happily slip back into this version of Edinburgh (or any version of Edinburgh right now, if I'm honest)
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
October 18, 2022
First Sentence: Moira Summers was on the top deck of the number 23 bus, her face turned up to the sun like a cat – it was the first day that year that could really have been called hot.

At Three River’s College in Edinburgh, Scotland, student Ryan Summers kills thirteen young women, injures a young man, and kills himself. The public wants someone to blame and refuses to believe that Ryan’s mother, Moira, hadn’t known this would happen.

Someone, possibly Agatha Christie, once wrote that every murder has three victims: the person killed, their family, and the family of the killer. Never has a book better exemplified that truth. Newly promoted D.I. Helen Birch’s first case is to determine Ryan’s motive for the killing while protecting his mother. Moira Summers must deal with the guilt over her son’s actions, questioning whether she could have seen and/or prevented them, while being threatened by the parents of the victims and the public. Ishbel Hodgekiss, mother of Abigail, the first victim, must deal with her grief and the anger of her husband, Aidan. Grant Lockley, an investigative journalist, is only interested in a headline and making a name for himself.

Askew brings the victims and their pain to life in a palpable way. She makes one take a hard look at how the public reacts to such incidents. The weakest characters are D.I. Birch, and the woman she assigns to protect Moira. That is offset by the excellent characterizations of Moira herself, and Ishbel. Lockley servs as a necessary diversion designed to anger the reader while exemplifying today’s exploitative media.

Downside: For being set in Scotland, there is very little sense of place. However, one may be grateful to the publisher for not “Americanizing” the language, as the local idioms and dialects do confirm the location of the story. The book could have been tightened up considerably. There are sections one may find oneself skimming, which is never a good sign.

Askew ends the book in a very interesting way, one that may leave one feeling somewhat ambivalent, but also with a sense of triumph. It is, at times, emotionally difficult to read.

ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS isn’t a mystery in the classic sense. To quote D.I. Birch—“… a crime with no bad guy? Victims are all there is.” It is, however, a powerful read as the plot is timely and relevant. Askew provides an important look at things happening around us. This is a book one may be glad to have read, as it can alter one’s perspective.

PolProc-D.I. Birch-Scotland-Contemp
by Claire Askew
1st D.l. Helen Birch – 384 pp.
Hodder & Stoughton, Jan 2018
Profile Image for The Hopeless Romantics Book Blog.
737 reviews203 followers
June 23, 2018
Claire Askew's "All the Hidden Truths" is one of those books that I could see being turned into a BBC drama. It has that feel to it. The story line is very topical and the way it is told (from three points of view) makes it very emotive for a number of reasons. This isn't a story about "what happened" or "when it happened" or even "who done it." "All the Hidden Truths" is about "why" and that is what each of the main characters strives to discover but equally struggles with when certain truths come to light. This isn't an easy book to read but what transpires and the fall out from that is definitely eye opening, thought provoking and more importantly, believable.

When I started reading this book, I initially found it a bit slow. I'd read the synopsis some time ago but had forgotten what it was about to be honest. All I knew was that (at the time) I had wanted to read it as I'd requested it from netgalley. 10% in and I was still wondering where the plot was heading but fear not. The further I progressed, the more everything fell into place. The start was about giving me some background into the three main characters. This background provided building blocks for the main plot of the story and some of the sub plots too. It helped provide meat to the bones of this story (for want of a better phrase) and the more I read, the more I got it.

"All the Hidden Truths" was a story about how three women learn to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. It gives us an insight into the power of social media and the influence it can have both on individuals but also in terms of how stories are manipulated and sensationalised in order to get viewer numbers up. This really was a heart breaking story where no one was a winner and where grief and guilt played such a huge part.

If you loved "13 Reasons Why," then I'd definitely say give this crime drama a go. Like I said, it's not about the who, what or when but more about the why! Although the story did feel a little bit long at times, overall, it did keep me engaged because I was desperate to know the answer on everyone's lips. "Why did Ryan Summers do what he did?"

"All the Hidden Truths" gets ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Profile Image for Joanne Robertson.
1,357 reviews553 followers
August 1, 2018
All The Hidden Truths is a beautifully written and thought provoking novel that delivered a punch to my emotions. It felt so relevant to the problems we face in our society nowadays plus the current feel to the narrative felt shockingly realistic from the very beginning.

The novel is told from the viewpoints of three different women. There is Moira who’s son Ryan goes to college one morning and shoots dead thirteen women before killing himself. Then we meet Ishbel who’s daughter Abigail is the first girl that Ryan kills. Finally there is DI Helen Birch who is in charge of the investigation but has some secrets of her own hidden in her past.

The women are perfectly crafted by Claire Askew who seems to have an in depth understanding of the emotional nature of this crime and how it would affect those touched by it. You would expect your sympathies to lie mainly with the victims and their families but I found myself getting angry with the way that Moira was being treated by those around her. As the mother of the perpetrator, does that automatically make her guilty of a crime? By giving birth to this “monster” is it right to blame her? I’ve always got terribly worked up when the media turn on the relatives of those who commit such offences. When their family say that they had no idea of what was going on in their child’s head, it seems unbelievable doesn’t it? But then the nature versus nurture debate is raised with the question being asked, was their motivation somehow ingrained by the way in which they were raised by their parents? I’ve always felt it unfair to blame the parents as once your child is no longer attached to you by their umbilical cord then, although you can try your best as a parent, you will never know what your child is truly thinking. You do your best to raise a decent human being but sometimes there are other environmental factors involved which could be the spark that lights those flames of evil.

Its worth noting that when I first read the blurb of All The Hidden Truths, I expected the setting to be based in the USA! After all isn’t that where we expect these sort of mass college shootings? So to find out that it’s set in the city of Edinburgh gave me an unexpected thrill of intrigue as it’s a city I know well and probably the last place I would expect to see as a location for this type of crime. My favourite Scottish city is beautifully described here, the authors love for it shining through her prose as she brought landmarks and much loved locations to life.

I adored this book. It had an almost poetic feel to the narrative that mesmerised me so I became completely and emotionally involved with the storyline. Claire Askew managed to maintain a high level of tension throughout as the plot headed towards its heart wrenching denouement. It was a moving but ultimately life affirming ending to what was a challenging and compelling read. These characters had become my friends/neighbours/work colleagues by the end as I had become so entwined in their day to day lives that I felt I really knew them.

This is a stunning debut novel that I can highly recommend. The community spirit explored within its pages is one that I hope is continued in future books by this author.
Profile Image for Jacob Collins.
785 reviews116 followers
April 1, 2018
All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew is a powerful psychological drama and it focuses on a very topical subject which has sadly been in the news very recently. 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 and they are all scarred by tragedy.

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 a chance to apprehend him. What could drive someone to commit such an abhorrent 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 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. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing an advance review copy.
Profile Image for Alexis.
201 reviews48 followers
December 4, 2018
This book follows the story of a school shooting. It focuses on three female protagonists: the mother of a victim, the mother of the shooter and the police officer in charge of the investigation.

To begin with the pace is quite racy, and it's exciting. Tensions are very high, as they obviously would be during a catastrophic event like this. However, this doesn't last and mostly it is very slow and drawn out.

Basically the book follows the journeys of the three women from the time of the shooting onwards. They go through the process of grieving and dealing with what has happened. All their thoughts and feelings about their loved ones and the events are laid out in painful detail.

All in all it's an interesting read, and very emotional. It does make you think from different perspectives about how people are affected by this kind of tragedy. I liked the fact that all the main characters were female, middle-aged and completely unapologetic about themselves. It made a nice change that the book was mainly female-oriented. This is something I am seeing more and more, and I hope an even balance of gender in fiction appears in the end.

I wasn't completely enamoured with the book. It was very slow and, to be honest, not that interesting. It was, however, very well written and this kept me reading until the end.
Profile Image for Cara.
144 reviews99 followers
March 26, 2019
This book is an amazing read! Not only is it set in my home country of Scotland, there is some brilliant writing and planning going on in this book! Claire Askew has really done a tremendous job!☺️
December 12, 2018

Emotionally charged & profoundly moving exploration of a tragic school massacre.

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.
Profile Image for Cathy Ryan.
1,159 reviews64 followers
August 10, 2018
The three main characters are introduced individually, and the story is told from the perspective of each of them. Moira Summers is wandering aimlessly around Edinburgh until, filled with a new purpose she decides it’s time to speak to her son. Little did she know she wouldn’t be speaking to him again, and her life was about to come crashing down around her.

Ishbel Hodgekiss was waiting for her nineteen year old daughter Abigail after football practice. Only Abigail hadn’t been to football practice and the ride home quickly escalated into an argument with Abigail hurling insults at her mother. That’s the last exchange they’ll ever have. The next day she hears from a colleague at work that Twitter is full of news about a college shooting.

Helen Birch is starting her new job after her promotion to Detective Inspector. On her way to work the dispatcher comes over the police radio with the report of a shooting at a nearby college, although they didn’t appear to be taking it seriously.

Helen decides to check it out for herself, taking the risk of incurring the wrath of her new boss. She couldn’t believe two units had been sent to a reported shooting unarmed. It wasn’t a hoax. Ryan Summers walked into the Tweed campus refectory and began a killing spree, resulting in the deaths of thirteen females, before turning the gun on himself.

This is a very thought provoking, moving and topical story, dealing with the aftermath of a terrible tragedy from the perspectives of the police, the mother of the perpetrator and the mother of one of the victims. We know who did it, but the mystery is what drove Ryan Summers to commit such a horrific crime. Claire Askew weaves together the three differing points of view skilfully and with wonderful characterisations as the story unfolds, revealing how much social media influences the public’s assumptions and behaviour. Secrets come to light, and the emotional impact on those affected and what it takes for them to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on is also shown to great effect. The use of tweets, posts and news articles scattered throughout the narrative are very effective. Phone hacking and intrusive behaviour by the press is also highlighted through the thoroughly despicable reporter, Grant Lockley.

A heartbreaking, disturbing and compelling debut novel. All The Hidden Truths addresses the themes of motivational forces, how a thoughtless comment can provoke an act of such enormity, and the different ways people deal with grief, betrayal and guilt.

I chose to read and review All The Hidden Truths based on an advance reader copy supplied via NetGalley and the author/publisher.
Profile Image for Judith van Wijk.
140 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2019
Heavy subject matter, but well written. I like how you follow people one different sides of the event. And, of course, there’s Edinburgh, which is always a plus.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,660 reviews26 followers
April 27, 2020
I like Helen Birch, the DI who is the main character in this series. She is a Detective Inspector in Edinburgh. This is the story of a mass shooting at an Edinburgh college in which thirteen young women are killed and the shooter commits suicide. The reality of school shootings in the UK is that the last one was at a primary school in Scotland in 1996. As an American who lives in a country where in 2019 there was one school shooting a week. Mass shooting such as the one in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996 are too frequent. In the 20 years following Columbine, there were 11 mass shootings in schools, colleges and universities. Because such events are extremely rare in the UK, I can't understand why a writer would make this the subject of a crime novel.

I had already read the second novel in the series. There is an odious journalist who appears in both and takes up far too much space. Her novels would be better served to shrink this role, preferably to just have him as a very marginal presence. There are far more interesting characters who would be better served by more exposure.

There is too little of Edinburgh in this book. There is too much dwelling on two mothers - one of the shooter and the other of a victim. When the shooter's motive is revealed it is not at all a surprise. I will read Askew's next crime novel as I expect her to get better.
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