New Fiction: The Good Liar – Nicholas Searle

This stylish, clever debut is already on sale in England and garnering reviews like this from the Daily Express: “An incredibly dark, taut thriller…. Think of Ruth Rendell morphing into John Le Carré.” It reminded me of early Ian McEwan—books like Amsterdam and The Innocent—twisty works of psychological suspense and character.

The plot involves the popular suspense device du jour, an unreliable narrator. And a warning to readers who must like their characters: Roy Courtney is creepy from the get-go. Moreover, you quickly start to realize he’s not just creepy; he’s a very bad man. The suspenseful unfolding of Roy’s past and how the author reveals it is one of the pleasures of the book. Then it all ramps up late in the book with a plot twist that would be literary malpractice to hint at.

I think the reviewers offer just enough to tempt the many fans of this genre…

At the start of British author Searle’s engrossing debut, octogenarian Roy Courtnay is looking forward to his lunch with Betty McLeish, a wealthy widow he’s met online. The apprehensive Betty has her grandson, Stephen, drive her to the appointed restaurant in an unspecified locale she and Roy have agreed on, where he waits outside in the car, prepared to rescue her if need be. Roy and Betty hit it off, and he soon moves into her cottage in the English countryside, where he sets about to bilk her of her fortune….Equal parts crime novel and character study, the tale is itself an elegantly structured long con. The pace is almost maddeningly deliberate, with details about the characters and their schemes doled out like a controlled substance, but patient readers will be rewarded with devastating third-act twists and a satisfying denouement.”
Publishers Weekly

 “A gut-clenching cat-and-mouse game…. This debut novel is a well-crafted, complex tale that will appeal to fans of psychological thrillers.”
— Booklist

“[A] fantastically assured debut…..A neat, clean structure alternates between sections written in the present tense, as Roy’s heart races at the thought of getting his hands on Betty’s assets, and past-tense accounts of key scenes from the lives of the trickster and his associates.… Searle nicely paces the dropping of details that explain what made Roy the person he now pretends to be…. The Good Liar makes you want to experience Nicholas Searle’s next trick.”
— The Guardian

“As the tension mounts, the reader is kept guessing….The final denouement is a real cracker… Added to the fiendishly clever plot, Searle’s writing is both drily amusing and elegantly crafted.”
Daily Mail

The Good Liar (9780062407498) by Nicholas Searle. $27.99 hardcover. 2/2/16 on sale.

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