Book review: ‘The Good Liar’ by Nicholas Searle


As the story begins, Roy Courtney might be categorized as a professional grifter. He has taken advantage of a variety of people in a variety of ways over a number of years. Currently he is on his way to meet a woman he has found online. She seems to have all the attributes he values, particularly some money.

Betty, the woman in question, likes what she sees. Neither of them is young, and he might even be categorized as elderly, but in a sophisticated way. He has obviously kept himself in good shape and he dresses well. Even with a good first impression though, she is cautious. One can’t be too careful. That is made somewhat easier by the presence of her grandson, Stephen, who is usually nearby and is obviously looking out for his grandmother.

It soon becomes apparent to the reader that Roy is not without support resources as well. The novel moves back and forth in time, and we learn that Vincent is the finance man who makes Roy’s ploys possible. There is always a transfer of cash at the end of each escapade that appears to benefit all involved but leaves the victim penniless and the money in the hands of Roy and Vincent. Roy is aware that his skills are waning at this point in his life, but he knows no other way to stimulate his adrenaline. He sees himself as a lifelong, skillful liar.

The main story line is set in Great Britain, but many of the flashbacks take place in Germany. Roy Courtney was assigned to help mop up the remaining Nazis, and the reader is taken along on this responsibility. It is in Germany that we are introduced to Lili Schroder and Hans Taub. Both of them play a part in Roy’s future exploits.

As we get into the story, we learn that Roy does not feel as confident as he has. In fact, he is thinking that this may be his final fling. He builds his case very carefully, first moving in with Betty, and then carefully establishing his fictitious background. It seems that he has a friend who is a skilled investment adviser. The friend could obtain much better returns on Betty’s investments than she is getting now. To support his case, he cites what Vincent has done for him. Yes, he has complete confidence in Vincent. The process moves ahead, risks are cited, but Betty is assured; with Vincent, they surely won’t be a factor. The couple even begins to plan what they will do with the increased income. It is at this point that the plot becomes involved. Do the flashbacks do more than establish Roy’s credentials? Does Betty realize what she is being drawn into? Will grandson, Stephen, realize what is going on? You may be surprised, or like my wife, Arlis, you may put it all together.


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