Publisher: Atria Books
Date of publication: August 3rd, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Trigger Warning: Homophobia, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, General Violence
Format Read: Unedited ARC
Received From: Publisher
The town of Whistling Ridge guards its secrets.
When seventeen-year-old Abigail goes missing, her best friend Emma, compelled by the guilt of leaving her alone at a party in the woods, sets out to discover the truth about what happened. The police initially believe Abi ran away, but Emma doesn’t believe that her friend would leave without her, and when officers find disturbing evidence in the nearby woods, the festering secrets and longstanding resentment of both Abigail’s family and the people of Whistling Ridge, Colorado begin to surface with devastating consequences.
Among those secrets: Abi’s older brother Noah’s passionate, dangerous love for the handsome Rat, a recently arrived Romanian immigrant who has recently made his home in the trailer park in town; her younger brother Jude’s feeling that he knows information he should tell the police, if only he could put it into words; Abi’s father’s mercurial, unpredictable rages and her mother’s silence. Then there is the rest of Whistling Ridge, where a charismatic preacher advocates for God’s love in language that mirrors violence, under the sway of the powerful businessman who rules the town, insular and wary of outsiders.
But Abi had secrets, too, and the closer Emma grows to unraveling the past, the farther she feels from her friend. And in a tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark—the truth of what really happened that night—to change their community forever.
The roar of the bonfire is hard to distinguish from the sound of the trailer-park boys and the schoolgirls who holler and dance in the shadow of the Tall Bones.Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey
I am going to be very blunt. This was not an easy book to read. It disturbed me on such a level that I had to take a break from it. While on that small break, I thought about what I read and how it was so relevant to what goes on in small, secular towns and, to be honest, not so small and not so secular towns. So, I will say this: Read this book and keep in mind that places like Whistling Ridge exist and in those towns, people like the ones portrayed.
The pacing of Where the Truth Lies started at a fast pace and kept gaining momentum until the ending. There were points in the book where it was almost too much (because of everything that was going on). For a fast-paced book, there was little lag which surprised me. I expected more because of how frantic the pacing got at the end.
The book starts with Abi disappearing from a bonfire and Emma beginning to look into it. She befriends a Gypsy man who was among the last people to see Abi alive. Then the author let’s open the gates of “WTF.” The racism that is shown to both Rat (the Gypsy) and Emma was disturbing to read. My heart hurt for them both.
Noah, Jude, Dolly, and Samuel are then introduced. They are Abi’s older brother, younger brother, mother, and father. Samuel is a Vietnam Veteran with PTSD coupled with severe anger and violence issues. He is a devout Christian who follows the Scripture closely. I couldn’t stand him, and I couldn’t find a little bit of pity when the author went into his backstory. I will warn that the abuse he puts his family through is graphic. There were a few times where I had to put my Kindle down because I was getting triggered. But I kept going.
Noah’s story arc was the saddest (well, besides Abi). He was gay, living with a homophobe, and a mother would couldn’t (and wouldn’t) protect him. He was forced to go to conversion therapy with the very slimy preacher, and when it didn’t work (because, you know, you can’t change who someone is), he was almost forced to go through it again. No wonder he wasn’t more screwed up. But, his relationship with Rat was beautiful to read. Not getting more into it, but I was moved by the depth of devotion Rat had for Noah.
The rest of the town is introduced, and I couldn’t get over how small-minded they were. Distrustful and racist of anyone who wasn’t white (and that included Emma, who was raised there), they were also quick to follow the lead of the preacher and Hunter’s father. So, I wasn’t surprised at the scene in the middle of the book when mob mentality took over, and the mob burned Rat’s trailer. But I was surprised at Dolly’s sudden change of heart when it came to Noah.
Abi’s disappearance is still the main storyline. I figured, like the police, that she had taken off until the police found something. Then my focus shifted to who would have killed her.
The end of the book had a lot going on. There was a massive twist in Abi’s storyline. One I didn’t see coming and surprised me when it showed it. I also didn’t see the twist that came with the Blake family storyline. If only Jude had come forward with what he had seen earlier and if only Dolly had the guts to do what she did much, much earlier.
I was a little confused by the very ending of the book. It was almost surreal, and honestly, it was a little anticlimactic after the events in the book. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what was written. I reread those last paragraphs quite a few times before giving up.
Where the Truth Lies is a dark book that doesn’t hold back any punches. It doesn’t sugarcoat any of the events in the book. I did enjoy reading it but at the same time, it disturbed me on a level that very few books have been able to.
I would recommend Where the Truth Lies to anyone over the age of 21. There are graphic (and often disturbing) scenes of domestic violence and child abuse. There is homophobia. There are graphic scenes of racism. There is also graphic violence.