The Good Liar: A Novel by Nicholas Searle
Download The Good Liar – From The Good Liar: When Roy meets a wealthy widow online, he can hardly believe his luck. Just like Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, Roy is a man who lives to deceive—and everything about Betty suggests she’s an easy mark.
Table of Contents
Download The Good Liar
He’s confident that his scheme to swindle her will be a success. After all, he’s done this before.
Sure enough, Betty soon lets Roy move into her beautiful home, seemingly blind to the web of lies he’s woven around her. But who is Roy, really? Spanning almost a century, this stunning and suspenseful feat of storytelling interweaves the present with the past. As the clock turns back and the years fall away, long-hidden secrets are forced into the light. Some things can never be forgotten. Or forgiven.
Review – The Good Liar
“A gut-clenching cat-and-mouse game…. This debut novel is a wellcrafted, complex tale that will appeal to fans of psychological thrillers.” (Booklist)
“If you like Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley books…this is an excellent debut indeed.” (BookPage.com)
“An incredibly dark, taut thriller…. Think of Ruth Rendell morphing into John Le Carré.” (Daily Express (London))
“Engrossing. . . . 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] fantastically assured debut…. The Good Liar makes you want to experience Nicholas Searle’s next trick.” (The Guardian)
“I was engrossed…. As deceiver and deceived move towards each other with hypnotic predestination, the plot unfolds to a payoff as inevitable as it is shocking. A superb thriller and a truly engrossing read.” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood)
“The Good Liar is a taut, compulsive thriller with a dark, intriguing heart. A Mr Ripley for our time.” (Jonathan Freedland, author of The 3rd Woman)
“What a clever and menacing novel The Good Liar is. I was gripped and horrified in equal measure and the ending knocked me sideways! I can’t wait for everyone to read the book so I can talk about it.” (Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina)
“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)
“One of 2016’s most intriguing debut novels.” (The Independent (London))
Review – The Good Liar
By the time I was done reading ( 2nd day), I really enjoyed this book. It started a little slow. Those looking for a fast pace thriller may be disappointed.
I would described this book as a historical, psychological novel with twists. For a first novel, I found the plot and development of same to be very sophisticated. More than any page turner I have read recently I find myself reflecting on the manner in which the author developed the 2 main characters, providing insight into the eventual outcome. I almost fell out of my chair when I figured it out ( well before the end ). Wow!
I was never one for English class – but I would love to write the Clifotes version for this.
Chapter One – The Good Liar
Nom de guerre 1
It is, Roy thinks, perfect. Kismet, serendipity, destiny, happenstance; call it what you will. All of these things rolled into one. He is not sure he believes in fate, or whether he believes in anything but the very present. Then again, life has treated him well generally. He stands and does the walk of his flat, checking that the windows are secure and the appliances are switched off correctly. He pats the chest of his blazer, which hangs on the back of the door: yes, his wallet is there. His keys lie ready on the console table in the hall. This lady at any rate seems heaven- sent, at least from the résumé he has called up on the screen. At long last. He knows to anticipate the minor alterations, those moments when a slight imperfection is turned by a clever choice of words or a simple ever- so- small fi b into a positively positive attribute. This is human nature. He doubts, for example, that her name is truly Estelle, any more than his is Brian. In his view such inconsequential tweaks are to be expected and accepted. They oil the cogs. When they are revealed, he will be suitably tolerant and amused at these minor embellishments. Unlike the rather larger lies you often confront, he thinks as he places the tea bag in the recycling bin, rinses his cup and saucer and places them, upturned, on the draining board. He takes a breath and powers the computer down, pushing the chair neatly under the desk. He has been here before, hopes held high. With this transitory reflection comes a momentary weariness. Those dreadful meetings in Beefeaters and Tobys around the Home Counties with frumpy old women in whom the bitterness of their long unfulfilled marriages with underachieving and uninspiring husbands 1 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 1 05/05/15 5:32 PM has in widowhood seemingly become the seed of a sense of licence to lie at will. For them there is no legacy of happy memories or the material benefit of platinum pensions in leafy Surrey mansions. They reside in poky terraces that no doubt smell of fried food, eking out an existence on state handouts, cursing Bert, or Alf, or whoever it may be, and contemplating a stolen life. They are out for what they can get now, by whatever means. And who can blame them really? Quick inspection. Immaculate white shirt: yes. Creases of grey flannels: perfect. Spit- shined shoes: gleaming. Regimental stripe tie: well knotted. Hair: combed neatly. Blue blazer off hanger, and on. Fits like a glove. Glance in the mirror: he’d pass for seventy, sixty at a pinch. He looks at the time. The cab should be here shortly. The train journey from Paddington will take only thirty minutes or so. For those desperate women, this is an escape. An adventure. For Roy, this dating lark is something different: a professional enterprise. He does not allow himself to become light entertainment or to let them down gently. He fixes them with his blue eyes before dismantling them forensically. He skewers them. He has done his homework and lets them know. ‘I thought you said you were five foot six and slim,’ he may say with incredulity, but is delicate enough not to add: rather than a clini-cally obese dwarf. ‘Not much like your photo, are you? Was it taken a few years back, dear?’ (He doesn’t add the postscript: perhaps of your better- looking sister.) ‘You live near Tunbridge Wells, you say. More Dartford really, isn’t it?’ Or, ‘So what you mean by holidaying in Europe is a package trip once a year with your sister to Benidorm?’ If, as planned, he is second to the venue, he will usually conduct a discreet first reconnaissance pass to size things up. When confronted with the familiarly depressing he could simply leave without introducing himself. It is all so predictable. But he never does. He regards it as his duty to shatter their hopeless delusions. They will be the better for it, eventually. Beginning with his usual winning smile and gallant greeting, he will segue rapidly into what has become something of a core script. ‘One of the things I dislike intensely,’ he says, ‘is dishonesty.’ Generally they smile and nod meekly. 2 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 2 05/05/15 5:32 PM ‘So, with apologies and with the odd unpleasant experience behind me’ – another smile, and this is as gentle as it gets – ‘let’s cut to the chase, shall we?’ Generally another nod, probably no smile, and a shift in the seat that he notices but perhaps others wouldn’t. He is punctilious in splitting the bill when it is over and unambiguous about the future. No insincere pleasantries. ‘Not what I was expecting at all,’ he will say with a weary shake of the head. ‘Oh no. What a shame. If only you’d been clearer. If only you’d described yourself more … accurately, shall we say? We could have both avoided wasting our energy. Which at our time of life’ – here a brief twinkle of the eye and the hint of a smile to show what they will be missing – ‘we can ill afford to do. If only …’ He hopes today he will not have to deploy these measures. But if so he will have discharged his duty to himself, to the unfortunate other and to the system that mismatches the hopeless with the delusional and, he believes, is in severe danger of bringing itself into disrepute. All those misspent hours drinking Britvic, all that effort put into stilted conversation over glistening mixed grills and mass- produced microwaved beef and ale pies or vegetable bakes or tikka masalas, all those awkward goodbyes with false promises of future contact. Not for him. Still less, all those doomed couplings in the search for a final day in the sun. Roy is not a pessimist, though. Brace up, be positive. Each time he starts afresh, hopeful. This time will be different, he tells himself, glossing over the fact that he has said this to himself several times before. But his sense is that it won’t be the same. The taxi is here. He straightens his back, smiles to himself and locks the door before striding to the waiting car. 2 Betty makes her final preparations, careful to keep her excitement in check. Stephen will run her to the pub and wait outside, so she has no practical concerns. No flush of heat as the train runs 3 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 3 05/05/15 5:32 PM dangerously late. No undue ache in the hips as she rushes inelegantly up the high street. No risk of a post- meeting sense of discomposure affecting her ability to find her way home again. And Stephen will be there should she feel an unexpected need to terminate the meeting early. They will have to set off in a few minutes, Stephen has told her as a result of his researches of his Google and his satnav gizmo. She can manage the internet but there are so many things about it that bamboozle her. What, for example, is a tweet? How on earth did we survive without all these devices? Or, more the point, why do young people so depend on them? She can hear Stephen padding around the lounge. He seems more nervous than she is; how sweet. While she applies her lipstick she looks at herself in the mirror. There will be no last- minute anxieties. The blue floral dress she has selected will serve perfectly well and sets off her fair hair, which is cut in a bob as fashionable as can be carried off at her age. She will not exchange the delicate silver necklace or its partner brooch for something more obvious like pearls. She will not opt for more – or less – sensible shoes. She will not require a final emboldening cup of coffee. Betty does not consider herself to be a flutterer. She is calm; real-istic too, she likes to think. Once justifiably described as beautiful, she accepts with, she hopes, good grace the effects of time. She prefers to think of them as mere effects, not ravages. Though she retains a certain radiance, she is no longer beautiful. She cannot pretend to be despite the glossies’ determined attempts to create and capture a new silver market. Perhaps she is something different, nameless and ageless. She clicks the top back on the tube of lipstick, rolls her lips together to ensure the correct coverage, fingers the necklace, gently touches her hair and gives herself one final look. She is ready. She glances at her watch: five minutes ahead of time. Stephen greets her with a delicate and decorous embrace when she enters the lounge. ‘You look fabulous,’ he says, and she thinks he means it. 4 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 4 05/05/15 5:32 PM 3 Stephen drives more sedately in the rain than he might otherwise. Even more sedately, that is, since at the best of times he is not a confident driver. He drives slowly for himself, to steady his nerves, and not for her benefit. She is a resilient person, clearly much more resilient than he is despite their respective ages. She has lived a life rather than simply studying how others have lived theirs. A feisty old bird, some might say, but not he. He could not imagine anything less fitting. He would not use such language and anyway it would be inaccurate. She is fragile, though not sparrow- like, with features of porcelain and proportions of fine slenderness. It is her constitution that is strong. Unbreakable, he’d say. They set off early to avoid any risk of lateness. He noses achingly slowly out of junctions, keeps studiously ten miles an hour below the speed limit and observes the strictures of traffic signs with an exaggerated obeisance. This is an important day, for her, for him. ‘You’re not at all nervous?’ he asks. ‘A little,’she replies. ‘Not really, though. But it’s easier for me, isn’t it?’ ‘Why’s that?’ ‘Because I’m doing it. Not waiting. Watching. I’ll be there. You’ll be outside in the car. Helpless.’ ‘But you’ll be in there. With him. Who knows what he’ll be like? What it’ll be like for you?’ He smiles. ‘That’s precisely it. It makes things easier. Truly. You don’t see, do you? How could you? I’m past the age when anything really matters, least of all what I say or do. I can be as outrageous as I want with impunity. I’m a dangerous quantity. I’m beyond embarrassment. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I’ll live to fight another day.’ ‘You’re remarkable,’ he says. ‘Brave.’ ‘Not really. What can happen? A drink and a bite with no doubt the perfect gentleman in a busy country pub. With my knight in 5 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 5 05/05/15 5:32 PM shining armour waiting outside gripping his mobile phone. What can possibly happen?’ He smiles and turns off the motorway on to the slip road. 4 ‘Estelle,’she says, extending her hand, and her eyes twinkle as she smiles. ‘Brian,’ he replies. ‘Delighted.’ She has found him. An appropriate ten minutes after the appointed time, owing to some judicious circling of the neighbourhood by Stephen, accompanied by glances at the building, newly constructed to look old, lit brightly in the March midday gloom. To Roy, she is instantly recognizable. Of medium height, slight, young for her age, something of the gamine about her, an amused, delighted expression and those engaging eyes. Lovely hair. A stun- ning dress that shows off her figure. A real head- turner in her time no doubt. The photograph on the website did not lie. His slight annoyance that she was not there before him evaporates. He approves. Oh yes. Very much so. ‘Now, what can I get you to drink?’ he asks. ‘I’d love a … vodka martini,’she says. She does not know why; the notion has just slipped into her head. Such impetuousness will not do for the next hour or two. Control and discipline. ‘Shaken or stirred?’ he says with a smile and a raise of the eyebrow. Rather different from the customary sad small sherry, he thinks. ‘Ha ha,’she says. He orders her drink, suggests they sit and carries their glasses to table number 16. ‘How did you recognize me?’ he asks. ‘I came in, looked around and there you were, standing at the bar. Tall, distinguished, smart, just as you described. Your photograph is very much like you.’ 6 1ST_9780241206935_TheGoodLiar.indd 6 05/05/15 5:32 PM This is not so very far from the truth, she reasons. In fact in a sea of – seemingly – sixteen- year- old thrusting sales executives he was not difficult to pick out. ‘Wizzywig,’ he says. ‘Pardon?’ ‘What you see is what you get. I do exactly what it says on the tin.’ ‘Oh,’she says, ‘how very disappointing.’ She smiles as if to reassure him that she is flirting.
About the Author
Nicholas Searle grew up in the southwest of England and studied languages at the University of Bath. He spent more years than he cares to remember in public service before deciding in 2011 to leave and begin writing fiction. The Good Liar is his first novel. Nicholas lives in the north of England.