Title: The Liar’s Girl
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Genre: Suspense, Crime, Thriller
Publisher: Corvus, Atlantic Books in 2018
Summary: from goodreads
Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College-and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his four young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just nineteen, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.
Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enrol in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed … and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer-and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in ten years, has never once looked back.
When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess-but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to. The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.
Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all …
I was drawn in to the story of The Liar’s Girl very quickly. The concept of the book had already piqued my interest as something a little different to the thousands of psychological thrillers on the market. In this book the killer has already been apparently caught and we are almost working backwards to find out the whole story. The dual narrative device worked well here, we spend most of the book with Alison, the main character, in the present but occasionally we are taken back to her first year of university – a decade before – when the murders that her boyfriend was imprisoned for took place. It added a great deal to the readers understanding of the main characters to see how they became the people they are in the present. The university lifestyle also felt authentic, the author perfectly captured the anxiety and excitement of being newly independent as a first year student. She also created friendships and relationships for her characters which felt so realistic and genuine. The Dublin setting also helped with this realism. The author obviously knows the area well or has researched it beautifully because she managed to fully immerse the reader in the vibrant city of Dublin. It added so much atmosphere and was incredibly evocative.
The characters were interesting and retained enough mystery that there was still a tense and slightly sinister feeling to the novel. I liked the main character Alison a lot, she felt like a real person with faults and strengths and I understood her decisions and reactions completely. She comes across as a little childish and unpredictable at times but also as a strong and intelligent woman. I thought her relationship with best friend of her youth Liz felt extremely realistic of teenage female friendship. There was obvious affection but also competition and a slight undercurrent of jealousy which is sometimes sadly prevalent in certain types of friendship, especially at that age, on the cusp of adulthood. The character of Will was also dealt with well, the author doesn’t give too much away about him whilst still giving insight into his thoughts and feelings. I didn’t know what to think about him and the things he claimed because of the author’s skill in painting a complicated and mysterious character. I actually was not sure of the motivations of quite a few characters which I enjoy in a thriller as it keeps the suspense high.
I felt this novel also had some really thought provoking insight into the dangers of living your whole life through social media. This seems to be becoming more common in the genre due to the fact that so many adults and teenagers give away a huge amount of personal information on the internet where anyone can see it. It is a sinister thought that a potential killer can almost exactly pinpoint a persons daily routine and the author portrayed this thoroughly modern problem very well.
Overall I thought this was a very well written novel with a great story and interesting characters. I liked the writers direct style and I though that it was a well paced story. It is not full of action with twists every second but there is a great feeling of suspense built throughout. There were also enough surprises to keep things intriguing without it ever feeling like these moments were put in for that reason alone. I thought there was a lot to really like about The Liars Girl. In my personal opinion the ending wasn’t totally satisfying but I was not too disappointed by it and I felt thoroughly gripped by this book all the way through. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a subtle and sinister thriller driven by it’s characters.
I received a copy of this book through Readers First in exchange for an honest review.