The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

Roy is a career conman who, having reached his twilight years, decides to pull one last con in order to set himself up comfortably for the rest of his life.

The target?  Betty.  A widowed lady who is simply looking for some companionship for her remaining years.  A lady whose savings would set Roy up nicely.

I really liked the way that this novel was set up.  There is a story set in the present, where we see Roy slowly insinuating his way into Betty’s life, gradually turning his plan into reality.  Alternating with these chapters is Roy’s life before meeting Betty, where the reader gains insight into his previous cons and his unfortunate victims.  Told in reverse chronological order, each chapter peels away another layer of his life, and slowly the web of lies surrounding Roy is untangled.  This works brilliantly in The Good Liar.  It allows gradual insight whilst revealing ever greater twists that make up this complex novel.  And Searle throws in several curve balls along the way to keep you guessing – just when you think you have Roy figured out, you have to throw out your assumptions and deductions and start all over again.

And the ending blew me away.  Throughout, I was thinking that I knew where the novel was going.  That I’d worked out what was going to happen.  I was right on some aspects, but not many.  There was so much more to this than I expected.

It seems as though novels centred around elderly characters have become increasingly popular (or at least increasingly prevalent) in recent years, a trend that seems (to me, at least) to have begun with The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.  I found The Good Liar to be very different to these, however.  This isn’t just another story about an individual who has led a remarkable life (although Roy certainly has had that) told “Forrest Gump” style.  The difference here is that Roy is loathsome.  This isn’t a kindly old man that we’re meant to sympathise with, to cheer on in his adventures.  This is a confidence trickster intending to do a lovely lady out of her savings.  We’re not meant to like him, and I found this refreshing.

The Good Liar gripped me from the start and never let go.  It’s well-written, clever, and entertaining, and is a brilliant debut – I can’t wait to see what Searle does next.

I’ll be recommending this novel to lots of people, but particularly anyone who likes classic crime fiction – it’s a thriller in the old fashioned sense of the term.

The Good Liar will be published on 14 January 2016, and I think that this will be a big hit.   Many thanks to Viking Books for providing a copy for review.

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