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The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

December 2, 2015

This is a life told back to front.

This is a man who has lied all his life.

Roy is a conman living in a small English town, about to pull off his final con. He is going to meet and woo a beautiful woman and slip away with her life savings. But who is the man behind the con?

What has he had to do to survive a life of lies?

And who has had to pay the price?


Roy Courtnay is not a nice man. As we meet him for the first time this somewhat older man is is preparing to meet yet another in a list of women he has encountered through dating websites.

It is obvious from the start that he has little interest in developing a relationship with loving feelings; rather this is an amoral conman targeting the next victim in line.
Betty is looking for companionship. Comfortably off, she meets Roy and they get on well. While neither would suggest they are in love, their short courtship gives them enough to lead them into thinking they can make a go of things. They believe they are sufficiently compatible and agree to an arrangement that sees Roy move in with Betty and take up the role of man of the house, if not the bedroom.

Betty’s nephew, Stephen, isn’t sure about Roy, and Roy reciprocates that feeling, but Betty is seemingly content.

At this point, we start to learn a lot more about Roy’s life and history. It is clear he has led a fascinating life, in England and on the continent. He’s been involved in many scrapes and brushes with the law and clearly his moral compass is way off the map.

We learn about Roy’s career as a minor Civil servant and his military career through the Second World War. Betty is told nothing of his past, bar the fact that he has a son in distant parts who he never sees.

As the novel unfolds, and as we learn more about Betty’s history, it becomes clear what the force is that holds this unlikely couple together and how the story is likely to pan out.
I won’t post spoilers, though it is does become very clear about half way through how the book will end. In that sense, I don’t think it is right to call it a psychological thriller.It is though, a well written book about an unsympathetic character who learns that the past will inevitably catch up with you.
Perhaps because of this lack of morality and the coldness of the character, I didn’t warm to this book and for me  there was a middle section that was both too long and too opaque.
The central storyline is, however, a good one and tells a dark and brutal story yet still manages to bring warmth and humanity to the forefront in the end.
Worth reading, but for me a three star read.

The Good Liar is published by Viking on 14th January 2016


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