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Monday 30 September 2019

The Liar's Room by Simon Lelic

Oh, and another present-tense narrative. Sigh. And my opinion hasn't changed. It still does not work. One star knocked off. 

This is one of those thrillers where the two main protagonists know what's going on, but the reader doesn't. Which is tedious and tries your patience. That said, it is compelling. 

Susanna Fenton is a counsellor and single parent to teenager Emily. She has spent fourteen years with a new identity, but when Adam goes to see her for an 'appointment', it's a consultation like no other. He seems to know an awful lot about her, her past and worse…Emily. 

It's quite addictive at first because what does Adam want from Susanna, how does he know her, of her and what is his interest in Emily? But then it gets very overplayed. The reasons for Susanna's dramatic change of life and the reasons for Adam's taunting are underwhelming, if I'm honest. Neither is guilty of anything very much other than being victims of tragedy. I suppose it's a testament to the quality of writing that you are nonetheless enthralled by the unfurling of the past, what Adam wants from Susanna and if Emily is in any danger. 

The strangulating present-tense narrative means the past, in order for the present-day events to make any sense, has to be revealed via Susanna's memories and Emily's diary, which is all a bit contrived and clumsy.

Notwithstanding the clunkiness, ghastly present tense, few characters that are actually likeable and the painfully slow reveal, you do find yourself unwittingly caught up in the tension and suspense.

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