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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Where the Truth Lies, Anna Bailey: A Review

Atria puts out some incredible titles in the genre, and I was thrilled to receive an eARC of Where the Truth Lies.

In the small town of Whistling Ridge, Colorado, seventeen year old Abi goes missing from a party in the woods. Her best friend was one of the last people to see her alive and becomes determined to get to the bottom of what happened that night. But everyone in Whistling Ridge has a secret, and the deeper she looks for the truth, the more twisted it becomes. From Abi's brother's secret relationship with a Romanian immigrant to the racial undertones carrying through the church and law, it seems everyone has a reason to keep Abi's disappearance a mystery. I had mixed feelings about this one. The initial premise started off strong. I loved the mystery surrounding Abi's disappearance and her friendship with Emma. I also liked the alternating past and present narrative choices, getting layered information about the characters in an interesting format. I had a difficult time with the execution. The timelines became muddled, with flashbacks threaded throughout the present and multiple narrators speaking at once. There was a large cast of characters, and while I think their attributes were established well, the times when each one was speaking or thinking were not always clear; because of this, I would've liked to see a little more structure given to chapter breaks and transitions. I also struggled a bit with the characters themselves. Per the author's notes, Bailey claims to have written this about her experiences working for a short time in Colorado as a barista. From the racist sheriff to the abused wife to the pastor spouting homophobic vitriol, there was a lot of reliance on stereotypes and tropes. Now, tropes in and of themselves are not bad. They exist for a reason, and done well, they can make valuable points about cultural or social changes that should very well be examined. However, in this case, it felt like every character was a caricature. This was a heavy read, the kind of book that makes you feel edgy and hopeless, and seemed determined to showcase the worst of humanity. Which again, isn't a bad thing. I love a book with a cause that wants to make a statement, but in this instance, the violence, racism, judgmental religious fervor, and abuse felt gratuitous and voyeuristic at times. There were some lovely tender moments that came with baggage and sorrow, and I finished the whole book in two sittings because I wanted to know what happened to Abi, but overall, Where the Truth Lies slightly missed the mark for me. That's not to say it won't find an audience with other readers--I think many will find this book to be raw and emotional--and I'd probably recommend to fans of Ozark or bleak literary fiction. Big thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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