Corvus | 2018 (1 March) | 336p | Review copy | Buy the book
When 19-year-old Alison and her best friend Liz won places to study at St John’s College, Dublin’s most elite college, they couldn’t have been more thrilled. This was the start of a whole new adventure, free of parents, curfews and childhood itself. But it was all to go wrong within just one year. Alison fled Dublin, turning her back on Ireland and her studies altogether, settling in the Netherlands where she built a new life for herself and did her best to forget the past. But the past will not let go of Alison.
Ten years later, when a young girl is found murdered in Dublin, pushed into the canal, Irish police journey to the Netherlands to collect Alison. They need her to speak to Will Hurley. He is refusing to speak to anyone but her and he has very little to lose. Will was imprisoned a decade ago, the serial killer murderer of five girls. But now all these years later this new girl has been murdered in exactly the same way. Could Will have had an accomplice? Is this a copycat killer? Or is Will innocent, after all? That possibility could be the hardest of all for Alison to accept because Will was her boyfriend, the man she loved.
The Liar’s Girl is an engrossing novel and a big reason for that is that this is a crime novel driven more by character than by twists. I really liked that. This isn’t to say that the book has no surprises along the way because it does. In fact, there are moments that stopped me in my tracks, not for twists but for shocks. I love Catherine Ryan Howard’s writing – she builds suspense so well and sets scenes brilliantly.
I loved the development of Alison’s character and the growth of her relationships with Liz, Will, her parents and with the two Irish policeman. These are all given time to evolve and they drive this novel on perfectly. I think the character of Will is particularly well drawn.
The narrative works so well at pushing the novel along while building up suspense and pace. We move between the present day and events of ten year before. The chapters are simply named ‘Alison, then’ and ‘Alison, now’, but there are other perspectives presented, nameless ones, and these take us into the shadows.
I am a little tired of thrillers that rely on shocks to end a novel with a bang. It’s almost as if the characters and plot are there simply to serve the twist. Instead, here we have a thoroughly involving mystery thriller with a completely satisfactory conclusion that works. We spend much of the novel inside Alison’s head, we feel her pain, guilt and anxiety. There were moments in The Liar’s Girl that made me sit up with a shock but it’s the characters who make this crime thriller rather special. I loved the previous novel Distress Signals and so the excellence of The Liar’s Girl came as no surprise to me at all.