This is my review of The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle.
Roy is an ageing conman, perhaps in denial over his fading appeal as he fails to grasp that his latest prey Betty and her grandson Stephen are not quite what they seem either, and may even be planning to turn the tables on him to avenge some wrong buried in Roy’s murky past.
This is the basis for a potentially gripping psychological drama with a sustained hint of menace as the facts are gradually dripped out through a series of flashbacks. However, after only a couple of chapters I was beginning to sense that I might be wasting my time, unable to resist the fatal temptation to skip ahead or even seek out other readers’ Amazon reviews.
The problem is not that I am put off by characters who are either unlikeable or even dull. It is rather the combination of a banal style which, in its periodic attempts to be literary, is too often overwritten to the point of becoming wooden, some very artificial dialogue and a heavy-handed tendency to pontificate, without the subtle combination of irony, inference, black humour and cliff-hangers of real tension which this kind of novel requires. The frequent use of the present tense does not seem to achieve its usual purpose of creating a sense of immediacy and drama. In short, I could not care enough about what was happening and how it would all end.