Everyone Here is Lying is the seventh book from the best-selling Canadian author Shari Lapena. As demonstrated in her previous standalone novels like The Couple Next Door and Not a Happy Family, the author is a master at creating suspense and shining a light on complicated family relationships. The fallout from a family spat can have ripple effects that impact a neighbourhood or even an entire community like the setting of Stanhope in Everyone Here is Lying.
All we know about Stanhope is that it is a small American town. People always say that the best thing about living in a place like this is that everybody knows you. Unfortunately, for some residents the fact they know someone makes equates to the right to judge them. Sometimes that sense of ‘knowing’ someone disregards that a person’s public persona may be very different from how they behave in private.
Two of the key characters here are William Wooler and Nora Blanchard. For several months they’ve been having an affair. They are neighbours and have taken steps to keep their relationship private. They meet at a hotel on the edge of town. Their assignations are planned on the burner phones they both carry. The book opens with their final meeting at the hotel. Much as she enjoys her time with William, Nora has an overwhelming sense of guilt that their affair will destroy her husband and children. She ends it and they agree to go their separate ways.
But today marks more than the end of a relationship. It is the beginning of a nightmare for both of them. William cannot go back to work at the hospital as he intentionally did not schedule any appointments that afternoon. He expects the family home to be empty but much to his surprise, his nine-year-old daughter Avery is home.
William discovers that she’s been sent home from choir practice for getting into trouble. This is not the first time that Avery has exhibited problematic behaviour. She has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a learning disability. When she refuses to say why she was sent home, William loses his temper and slaps her so hard he knocks her to the floor. Shameful of his anger, he checks that Avery has no major injuries and begs her forgiveness. Avery ignores him and William leaves the house in frustration.
Michael, who is Avery’s older brother, expects to meet her after his football practice to walk home from school together. She is not at the school nor at home. He phones Erin, their mother, to say that Avery is missing. Erin rushes home while Michael searches places in the neighbourhood where Avery could be playing.
When they are unable to find her, Erin phones her husband and the police. When questioned about his whereabouts that afternoon by the police, William is afraid that his affair will be exposed along with his violence. He values his reputation as the kind, handsome doctor, so he lies to them and puts his reputation above the safety of his daughter.
The longer Avery is missing, the faster you will burn through the pages to find out what has happened to her. The time span covered in the book is short, but a lot happens within a week. Once Avery is identified as missing, Lapena ratchets up the tension and pace of the book. She accomplishes this by letting the action-driven plot unfold from the perspectives of William and Nora, their families, their neighbours and the two detectives assigned to the case. This approach will give you insight into the thoughts of the various characters. You will learn which characters match their public personas and which characters have been treated unfairly because of their reputation or past actions.
The detectives have to sort through multiple lies and misdirection in order to understand Avery’s disappearance. You may need to suspend your disbelief, particularly around Avery’s ADHD diagnosis. Although she exhibits social difficulties and impulsiveness, she’s also capable of things that would seem too complex for a nine-year-old with the condition. However, this shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of Everyone Here is Lying. It has already hit the number one spot on the Irish bestseller list and is number five on The Sunday Times Bestsellers list.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars