The fact that the term ‘school shooting’ is even part of our modern vernacular is tragic enough. This seems to cover anything from the mass murder of children and staff at primary schools to that of adult students and staff at universities. It is a dissection of the aftermath of a single shooter university killing spree that is featured here in ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS.
Thirteen women, thirteen dead. Ryan Summers takes a gun to an Edinburgh university campus and deliberately chooses only women to fire upon before turning the gun on himself. Three women are at the forefront of what comes next; the investigating detective, the mother of the first woman killed and the mother of Ryan Summers. These are dreadful crossroads to contemplate yet somehow the three women find themselves where no one ever wants to be.
ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is an examination of the circumstances that result in one young man choosing to take the lives of his peers. This is not a complicated novel to follow and the mounting of any soapboxes via the mouths of the characters is subtly done. ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS does not rely upon graphic descriptions of the slayings but instead deep dives into the complexity of grief felt by blindsided communities when school shootings occur. How do we find the reasons why, when there are no clues left behind? Why do we look elsewhere for blame, when it could only sensibly be laid at the feet of the shooter?
At the conclusion of ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS the reader has some post book homework to do as the novel will require that you invest some time in pondering exactly where it is that our current culture places such killings. It is felt that it was quite a deliberate choice to frame the murders from the perspective of three women around the (past) passages of the male killer. The focus here is not on the victims and what it was about them that put them into the path of a spree killer, but instead the novel examines the ripple effect of the shooting on all those left behind. There are always the helpers, the survivors, the investigators and those that not deemed worthy to be allowed to mourn.
ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS is a thoughtful piece about surviving horrendous loss and the need to find rational explanations for the increasing occurrence of such acts of violence. Another day, another school shooting.
Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.