Book Review: Everyone Here is Lying

Book cover of Everyone Here is LyingIt’s hard to feel for a character when, right out of the gate, they slap a nine-year-old girl. However, as this page-turner, thriller unravels you might start to feel for the father left horrified by his own actions.

This is Shari Lapena’s seventh novel. A lawyer and English teacher turned thriller writer, she’s the author of the New York bestseller, The Couple Next Door, which sold four million copies worldwide. Ever since, Lapena has been dubbed the “mistress of dysfunctional family stories” and after reading her latest novel I wholeheartedly agree.

Everyone Here is Lying transports us into the seemingly safe, if somewhat salacious, neighbourhood of Stanhope in this fast-paced, domestic thriller.

We meet Dr. William Wooler fresh out of a motel room, where his lover, a neighbour and work colleague, has just pulled the plug on their tryst. Devastated, he returns home to find his petulant daughter, Avery, home early from school. She presses his buttons and wham, he loses control.

Just hours later, Avery’s mother reports her missing to the police.

Who took Avery Wooler? For these past weeks, this question kept me guessing well into the night. I was skilfully drawn into this tight-knit neighbourhood; the kind of place where everyone smiles at each other while throwing them under the bus behind their backs. A suburban snake pit.

Maybe William is telling the truth about slapping her and leaving her alone in the house. That is his way—he loses it and then retreats in shame. Maybe someone else took Avery. She thinks again about the Blanchard boy. William says someone saw Avery getting into his car on the afternoon she disappeared—if that’s true, then William is innocent and Ryan is the guilty one.

Shame and guilt run rampant in Stanhope with families left reeling as accusations are hurled back and forth across the streets, with the detectives barely keeping up.

In an interview with Lapena, she mentions that her background in law gave her a “what if” mindset, always thinking about the worst-case scenarios and what could go wrong. We see this in action in Everyone Here is Lying as the starting setup is a parent’s worst nightmare, but things just continue to get worse as more secrets are exposed.

William Wooler is now a pariah. He used to be respected in this town. How quickly things change. His wife hates him. Her face as he told her what he’d already admitted to the police—the disbelief, disgust, rage, hatred.

As time ticks away for Avery her mother starts to unravel, but it’s her perseverance that pushes one of the neighbours into making a mistake, one that proves to be fatal, but not in the way you might expect.

This is a twisty, turny, domestic noir where the characters might not be overly likable, but are unfortunately somewhat relatable. As Lapena slowly exposes the layers of dishonesty, nasty assumptions and outright betrayal, you can’t turn your head away from the car crash unfolding on the pages.

Rather than a clue-based whodunit, the novel is a series of surprises (the last one is a doozy), which makes it a fun, pacey read.

Some reviewers of this book didn’t enjoy the somewhat open-ended, ending, but it has certainly left me thinking, and I guess that’s the point. Although something like this would never happen in my Whistler neighbourhood…right?

“Life doesn’t end up in a nice, tidy package,” says Lapena in a previous interview, “Something new is always going to happen, so I like you to finish the book thinking, what’s going to happen next?” 

Shari Lapena appears at the Thrills and Chills Mystery Crime Writers Panel on Oct. 14 at the Whistler Writers Festival. Tickets are on sale now. 

This review first appear in the Whistler Pique Newsmagazine. 

Book review is by Dee Raffo. She is a writer who lives in Whistler, BC. Although she mostly writes about her mountain home, she’s also a screenwriter whose credits have appeared on CTV.