Published by Harper
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Roy Courtnay has been working one scam or another all his life. Now in his mid-70s he’s turned his hand to internet dating as a way to prey on wealthy widows. When he meets Betty she seems just his type—pretty and a bit ditzy. He provides her with welcome companionship and even opens up with his own concerns about his pension and how to stay financially afloat in these trying times. Does she ever worry about such things? Thankfully, he has a very good investment advisor who can help them both, but only to talk; he would never dream of interfering in her finances. Roy is The Good Liar, Nicholas Searle’s eponymous debut novel. As his plan progresses, we come to see, in chapter that go as far back as the 1930s, that whatever lies Roy is telling now they don’t compare to his truth.
Searle sets up The Good Liar as seamlessly as Roy does his con. Very little in the opening chapters are as they appear, but just as a good grifter gently lures their mark into compliance so Searle does with pages that blend small glimpses of honesty with life’s trivialities. Modern technology is confusing, the old days were better, joints ache, as does loneliness. It isn’t until the pages of the past assert themselves and begin to form a more complete picture that doesn’t mesh with Roy’s description of his “humdrum” life that the reader gets an idea of just how far the game reaches. With no way of seeing what we see, it seems likely that the guileless Betty is bait for the shark that is Roy.
The genius of The Good Liar is in the fact that even for skeptics or the readers who figure out everything early, it doesn’t matter because the key characters do not. And so, there is the building tension that someone (but who?) is going to be very unhappily surprised by the end. Searle builds the suspense beyond the current mystery with the lives lived by Roy and Betty. In moving from now back to then, he makes the past more critical to the future than the present and makes The Good Liar anything but a con game.