Where the Truth Lies
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Anna Bailey’s debut novel Where the Truth Lies brings readers a dark, disturbing, emotional, and atmospheric crime novel set in small town Whistling Ridge, Colorado. A teenaged girl, Abigail Blake, disappears after leaving a party and going into the woods.
She had come to the party with her friend Emma Alvarez who feels guilty for not waiting on her friend and commits to finding out what really happened to Emma. Did she meet someone; and if so, who? Most, including the police, believe she ran away from home. But is that what really happened?
Many characters in this novel are nasty, spiteful, obnoxious, malicious, and mean-spirited, and that is describing them mildly. They seemed very real and it is daunting to imagine a town that contains this many vile characters. However, there are a few characters that stand out positively from the rest. One is Abigail’s younger brother, Jude. Another is Emma. Despite her problems, she is trying to do the right thing. The third was Rat, a Romanian living in an RV. While he had some problems, he basically wants to help Emma.
The plot is quite dark and contains several twists that are interwoven well. The author does a great job of world-building. I was able to easily visualize the setting. The small town atmosphere came through, but not the positive atmosphere often seen in novels. This one is full of secrets, alcoholism, racism, and a charismatic pastor that advocates violence and intolerance. Add to this drugs, rage, domestic violence, child abuse, self-blame, cruelty, narrow-mindedness, inexcusably bad parenting, gossip, lies, maliciousness, bullying, and much more. What do you get? A suspenseful and emotional novel that pulls a reader in and keeps one looking for something hopeful in Whistling Ridge. My one quibble was with the frequent shift of perspective from character to character and back and forth in time which broke up the natural flow of the novel.
Overall, this book was a study of many characters and group dynamics that was intense, compelling, thought-provoking, and impactful. What will Emma find out as she digs into Abigail’s disappearance and learns that Abi had her own secrets? Will she solve the puzzle of her friend’s disappearance? I will not forget this book or its characters for a long time, if ever. It is not an easy book to read, but it is important to understand that attitudes and behaviors such as those shown in this story line exist.
Atria Books and Anna Bailey provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for August 3, 2021.