Review: THE GOOD LIAR

ISBN: Paperback – 9780241973295

There are few matters which are more likely, in my household, to cause dissent and dispute, than the selection of a film to watch.

Here we tend not to watch too much television. Correction: my wife and I don’t watch much television. Obviously things are different for our children. They will watch quite a lot – but I don’t know how much, because my son watches much of it on his phone in his bedroom (he’s a teenager), while my daughter has disappeared and lives with her boyfriend’s family. She now regularly updates us on The Chase and Gogglebox, or on the boxed sets of old TV programmes she has just binge-watched.

Personally, since the ten years I spent without television (as a writer, I couldn’t afford a TV Licence, so we disposed of the box in the corner of the room), I have never had any incentive or desire to get hooked on programmes that run to multiple episodes. They invariably grow ridiculous, and then I regret having invested so many hours in something that turned out to be twaddle.

However, my wife and I, and the children, do enjoy films. Just not the same film at the same time. I have been trying to watch the film of this book for some time, and was planning to review both at the same time, but my daughter refused on the basis that she didn’t think her mother would enjoy it.

Censorship by children. It’s a scary life.

Now, since she has left home, I could watch it – except I don’t have access to the same platforms that she has, so I don’t know where I could get a copy to watch. It isn’t on NOW TV, as far as I can see.

So, instead, I’ll write this based solely on the book. Is it worth the read?

Yes.

I admit, I started out with this thinking it was going to be a rather slow, tedious read. The author, Nicholas Searle, was a civil servant, I saw, and that made me wince. There have been many very good writers who gave up a career in the civil service, after all, but I am quite sure that there are many more who didn’t quite manage to make the move from government-speak documents to enticing writing.

Nicholas made the move with ease.

The whole book is told from two main perspectives: from Roy’s, who is an elderly, philandering swindler, out to deprive elderly ladies of their savings, and from Betty’s, an elderly lady who appears quite ready to be fleeced in exchange for companionship in her retirement. From the first she appears quite the easy mark for Roy’s approaches, but she has a shrewdness that surprises him. She will be more effort than he was used to – but she is worth the effort, he decides.

Why would she want to associate herself with a man who is, basically, a con artist? What would she get from him? Why would she want to risk her savings? Why, when she has suspicions about him, would she want to continue any relationship with him?

I know people get worried about being told too much about a story. Let me say that I have barely got to page 14 in the book.

And from here the plot accelerates in a very satisfying manner. We learn that Betty has family, although her husband has died. We know that Roy spends his time searching for exactly this kind of woman, a lonely lady with money. Soon, he feels sure, he will have conquered her heart and can groom her until she trusts him utterly. She has a small fortune in life savings. Enough to keep him content for quite some years. She will be sure to agree to a joint bank account, and once that is arranged, he can be off to the sun, away from her and the cold climate of England.

But there are one or two little problems along the way.

I’m not going to give away more. That is basically the first chapter, first with the two preparing for their meeting, their “first date” based on the computer dating site they both used, and their parting after the date. In the next chapter we start to meet the others involved, Betty’s family, then Roy’s companions. There are several others who work hard to create a thoroughly believable storyline and who fill out both leading characters, giving them a depth that is surprising. They are so entirely convincing, they seem to walk off the page.

But it is not the fact that these two are so convincing that is the thrust of the story. No, it is the plot itself. It is quite straightforward when considered in retrospect, but nothing is as it first appears. When you have finished this book, it is one of those which you want to read again, just to make sure that the plot didn’t deviate and the author didn’t cheat along the way! But he didn’t.

This is a brilliantly realised psychological thriller – not a horror story with blood and guts on every page, but a truly well-thought-through story, full of suspense and dark clues, and with some excellent shocks along the way. As one critic said, it is “a Mr Ripley for our time”.

Highly recommended.

For your copy, go to: https://amzn.to/3mGHH2D

Comments
2 Responses to “Review: THE GOOD LIAR”
  1. Sounds like just the kind of book I’d love. Thank you for introducing me to it. Is it on audio?

    Like

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