I would not put Tanen Jones on par with Gillian Flynn, but I will admit that there is definite appeal there for that audience if the reader is inclined to be forgiving. THE BETTER LIAR is a debut novel, and with comparisons to authors such as Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn in the blurb, seems to be setting itself to some pretty high standards, which can sometimes lead to disappointment. I personally thought the story was more reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, but I get why they went with Flynn-- Flynn sells more copies than Highsmith these days, and that's what publishers want. Warm bodies, reading their twisted mysteries about cold ones.
THE BETTER LIAR is about a woman named Leslie who came from a troubled and dysfunctional family. She has just found out that her young sister, Robin, is dead, but cannot claim her inheritance without her sister there beside her to claim it in tandem. Luckily, she meets and ends up becoming friendly with a woman named Mary who could be a deadringer for her sister-- a younger, healthier, less crazy version of her sister, that is.
The two women work together to hammer out the scam, and Mary comes home with Leslie to meet her perfect husband and perfect child, but as Mary becomes more involved with the life that Robin left behind, Leslie soon realizes that her little plan might not have been as clever as she thought. Especially when old, dark secrets long buried rise back up to the light.
I can't say much more about the book than that without MAJOR SPOILERS but there are definitely Highsmith vibes-- vibes from multiple books of hers, not just a single one, including, perhaps THE PRICE OF SALT. Honestly, this is probably the type of book where you're better off going in cold. The suspense was well done and I thought the writing was great. The book just fell apart a little bit in the last act, with an ending that I frankly found very confusing and abrupt. There was one really good twist but I personally didn't feel like the author did as much with it as she could.
If you're a fan of mysteries featuring dysfunctional heroines and family secrets, THE BETTER LIAR is a great book. Just don't go into it expecting the next Gillian Flynn. It's a well-crafted mystery and would probably make for a great movie or TV show, but the plotting is not quite on that level yet.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars
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