#Book Review #All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen

FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.

Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.

Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.

(From the Book Blurb)

*****

My thoughts:

Although this is book 3 in Ellery Hathaway series by Joanna Schaffhausen, this thriller/police procedural works perfectly fine as a standalone. There is enough information and background, both factual and emotional, to understand both the past and the present of the protagonists. The previous books are The Vanishing Season and No Mercy.


In All the Best Lies FBI Agent Reed Markham makes an accidental discovery about his family that makes him question his relationship to his parents and his siblings. It also makes him re-visit a 40-year-old cold case of a brutal murder of Camilla Flores who died of multiple stabbing wounds while her baby was nearby in his crib. Baby Joe Flores was adopted by Virginian Senator Angus Markham, became Reed Markham, and grew up in a loving family that provided the best possible care and opportunities privilege can buy.


Ellery Hathaway couldn’t have come from a more different background. Her father left his wife and two children and stopped answering his messages. When Ellery was abducted by a serial killer Francis Coben, John Hathaway chose to stay away. When Ellery’s brother Daniel died of leukaemia, John even come to his funeral. Now he is desperately trying to get in contact with Ellery who is keen to avoid seeing him at all costs. Ellery doesn’t think twice. She is going to help Reed try to discover who exactly killed his mother, and she is going to stand by him, because the case is bound to be impossibly hard to investigate.


The plot is intriguing and although I had my suspicions as far as the identity of the killer was concerned, there were some twists I didn’t anticipate. Joanna Schaffhausen’s writing is superb. She created complex, well-rounded characters who keep evolving as they face new life challenges and make new choices.


The relationship between Reed and Ellery is complicated. He keeps thinking about the moment when he found fourteen-year-old Ellery and knows in some respects he was too late. ‘He’d re-entered her life expecting gratitude and instead found himself hoping for forgiveness’. Ellery and Reed’s understanding of each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities and their desire to be there for each other is so powerful and rare.


Joanna Schaffhausen explores thorny topics family relationships, lies, secrets, and choices to hide the truth. She also gives her characters plenty of second chances and opportunities for healing and building a new life.


I am very glad to have discovered this compelling series with its fascinating characters. Highly recommended for all lovers of mystery/crime genre.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Minotaur Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read All the Best Lies or is it on your tbr list?
  • What new crime series have you recently discovered?
  • Do you prefer reading series or standalones?

Join the Conversation

15 Comments

  1. I haven’t read any of these but I like that you identify there’s enough backstory given so that it’s not necessary to read them in order. I’m a teacher and I’ve noticed in series that my students are reading, there is always review of backstory given so that it’s fine to read them in any order which wasn’t always the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Laura! I don’t mind spoilers in general and in this case I’m more than happy to go back and read the previous books.
      You’re right, the authors seem to include the backstory more often nowadays. Do you think readers who follow a series from the beginning might get annoyed and feel this is done at the expense of developing the new story?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great question! I wonder about that too. My students generally don’t mind or occasionally say, “I already knew that.” But it makes them feel good, it annoyed. For me, I like it because I can’t always keep character names or backstories straight because I’m reading my own books (usually one audio and one regular at the same time.)
        I’ve been reading 2 different series for children with my tutoring student, and I noticed it in both of them. This particular student doesn’t like to discuss along the way, so I wonder what his feelings are about a paragraph or two that ‘rehashes’ what we need to know if we are new to the series, but we haven’t talked about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have this on my TBR, but was told I needed to read the first two before reading it as there is so much that happens in the previous two books. That, of course, came from people who have read the first two books. I am glad that you did not see that as an issue. I might jump in with this one then. Wonderful review, I like the various issues in this story, all ones I find very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are probably right.All this background information can be considered spoilers, if you want to get a full experience of the first and second books. The characters are really well-written. I’d love to hear your opinion on Camilla’s choices, so I’ll definitely be asking you some questions after you’ve read the book 🤗❤

      Liked by 1 person

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