On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father.
But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a brilliant split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?
Also by Peter Swanson
I have quite a soft spot for Peter Swanson’s writing. He impresses me. He has this way of capturing your imagination, with one or two rather engaging and quirky characters. He draws you into their dysfunctional lives, with their casual lack of morality. He makes odd events seem rather normal. He is master of subtlety. Swanson brings us a brand new story in All the Beautiful Lies.
Swanson packs much into All the Beautiful Lies. We get a tale of illicit relationships, deceit, multiple lies and age gap relationships. In fact, there is something very unsavoury about some of these age gap relationships. They are not all about love or passion. We see healthy ones, ones that border on abuse and some that definitely are of a paedophile predatory nature. Swanson deliberately and intelligently makes us reflect. Unsettling. Thought-provoking. Pure brilliance.
The story takes us into the life of young Harry Ackerman. His father has passed away suddenly. Harry grieving returns from college. At the family home is his step mother, Alice, the second Mrs Bill Ackerman. The much younger new alluring wife. Harry has had inappropriate sexual thoughts about her for years. We see Harry trying to get to the truth about what happened to his father. We see Alice in action. All is not what it seems.
As you would expect from a Swanson story, you get presented with an initial idea about the direction of things. Then he swiftly turns everything on its head. He is clever, like that. We hear from Harry, from the young step mother, Alice and from another individual. There are assorted flashbacks, as we gain an understanding about what motivates our key players. Soon we are immersed in their lives and wonder if the truth or some version of it will ever be told. We get a delicious female character in Alice. Swanson’s female characters are always the strongest and the most complex.
This is a story about sex. It is about obsession. It is a slow burning Swanson classic. It might shock you, if you are of a very sensitive disposition. It will definitely make you think. Long may Peter Swanson continue to entertain us with his remarkable brand of noir.