“The Good Liar” by Nicholas Searle is a fascinating thriller. The plot is intense with the main characters seen as either very likeable or having no redeeming qualities.
Although the first few chapters are slow and readers will question where the plot is going they should realize that as the book progresses the storyline will grab their attention.
This thought-provoking plot has many twists. Roy, a conman, now in his eighties, thinks he has an easy mark after an online meeting with Betty, a wealthy widow. Soon, they fall into a platonic relationship, with Roy moving into Betty’s cottage. He does this to grab the unsuspecting widow’s money, thinking of her as the perfect mark. Yet, as the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that there is a cat and mouse game going on between the characters.
“I based it upon a relative of mine,” the author said. “While in her seventies she met someone, finding him on the Internet. She wanted a companion and thought this man was an utterly charming person. By the time we met him he had moved in with her. Within ten seconds of meeting him I knew there was something odd about this person. The rest was a voyage of discovery. I found out he lied about absolutely everything including his age, what he did for a living, and his relationships. He actually moved in with other women even though he was married. I became fascinated with him. Just like my character Roy he was imposing: tall, strong, broad shouldered, with piercing blue eyes. I wrote the backward sequencing because in my mind I started wondering what both Roy and the real life person were like twenty years ago, then thirty years ago, and so on.”
The two main characters are as divergent as they come. Roy’s personality alternates between being charming and manipulative. Those he has schemed in the past are dead to him both figuratively and literally. He is malevolent, hateful, cunning, selfish, and a borderline psychotic. Contrast that with Betty, who is highly intelligent, attractive, and articulate.
Searle noted, “Roy never feels a shred of guilt and has no conscience. He does not care about anyone. People can draw optimism from Betty. She is a survivor, petite, intelligent, and has an indomitable spirit.”
Readers get to understand the characters through flashbacks into their lives that appear in reverse chronological order. The time periods alternate between the present and past, from August 1998, September 1973, March 1963, August 1957, May 1946 and finally to December 1938. As the book progresses, readers are able to start connecting the dots, realizing where the mystery is headed.
“The Good Liar” is also a con job for readers allowing them to think the story is headed in one direction, but soon realizing that the twists take them on a completely different turn. This debut novel has a very ingenious ending. It will keep people guessing and on the edge of their seats.