Book Review: All the Beautiful Lies

04.03.2018 | William Morrow
Rating: 4/5 stars


Harry Ackerson’s college graduation is days away when he receives a phone call that changes his life forever. His step-mother, Alice, is calling to inform him that Harry’s father has died. The police think it was an accident and that his father simply slipped from the cliffs while out on his daily walk. When the body is recovered, however, they become suspicious about how he ended up with certain damage resembling a blow to the head. Harry returns home to Maine to be with his step-mother and aide the police in any way he can.

Shortly after his father’s funeral, Harry encounters a mysterious young woman, Grace McGowan, who he believes holds a secret about his father. It seems that Grace isn’t just a stranger in town. While growing closer to Grace, Harry also finds himself with mixed feelings about his step-mother. He has always found Alice to be gorgeous, but they have never been close. Now that they are alone in her home together, Alice appears to be interested in Harry in ways he could never imagine. Harry is mesmerized by the women around him, but knows that they each are hiding secrets from him about his father. Can Harry find the truth beneath the lies?


Peter Swanson is one of those authors who I have been told I need to read several times by fellow bookworms over the last few years. I purchased a few of his books, ready to commit, and they always seemed to fall down my TBR. Since I’m actively working through my backlist this year with the help of audiobooks, I knew Swanson needed to be on the priority list. I am so glad I’ve finally given his books a go!

ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES is told in a back and forth narrative between “then” and “now”. In Part One the chapters alternate with Harry being the voice of “now” and Alice being the voice of “then”. The reader instantly knows that at some point these narratives will collide, but it’s not apparent from the start what looking back into Alice’s life will bring to the present. What an interesting story they both tell! If I was forced to pick a favorite narrative I would probably go with Alice’s, simply because she lived such a tangled web of lies! I was shocked at some of things that Alice either did or witnessed happening around her. With the transition to Part Two, Swanson keeps the “then” and “now”, but gives the reader a chance to meet new narrators.


Swanson does not shy away from some sensitive topics within the pages of this book. I think that it’s fair to say this book won’t be for everyone. There are relationships that happen between a step-parent/step-child that are unsettling. To put it another way, this book has Mrs. Robinson vibes all over the place! Despite the dark subject matter, Swanson’s writing made me want to keep reading about these characters. I wanted to know what made them tick, what brought them to where they ended up, and what would happen to them in the future.

Although I declared Alice’s narrative was my favorite, it was actually Harry that became my favorite character. He’s that lovable, naive, oblivious to the world around him character that you want to walk through a story with, holding his hand and telling him things will be okay. He desperately wants to see the good in everyone and he’s experiencing several situations that are the complete opposite. Swanson writes Harry’s character in such a genuine way that you become invested in the story not only to know what will happen, but to also see how it will impact Harry.

I’m so happy that I’ve officially begun my journey into Peter Swanson’s writing. ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES has bumped his entire backlist up my priority list, so be prepared for more reviews of Swanson’s books coming soon!

Amazon| Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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