Secrets and lies provide the main focus of this impressive debut novel. When octogenarians Roy and Betty meet in a local pub for a date arranged over the internet they both choose to adopt false names until they get to know one another better. This is the first of many lies.
As their relationship blossoms with Roy moving in to Betty’s the story moves backwards in time and the reader begins to feel anxious as incidents in Roy’s past and his intentions towards Betty become clearer. Roy has weaved a web of lies in his lifetime and he sees his plan for Betty as being his final caper.
The shifting back of the story is a clever device and is done particularly well here as it trips up the reader regularly. This does affect the flow but it is intentional as the reader needs to keeps their wits about them so as not to be hoodwinked by Roy and his unreliable past. There were times when I was puzzled and times when I was bamboozled by events, making it all in all a gripping read and cranking up the tension well. I found it refreshingly unpredictable until, perhaps, the ending which whilst probably inevitable felt something of an anti-climax from what had gone before.
Debut author Nicholas Searle has his own secrets. An ex-high level civil servant he is, according to the autobiographical blurb, unable to reveal any more information about his pre-writing career. A little mystique perhaps to add to the layers of lies and secrets which permeate this work?
The Good Liar is published in the UK by Penguin on January 14th. Many thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.