The Better Liar, by Tanen Jones

Short Take: She’s a good liar, but not quite good enough.


Good morning, my marvelous nerdlings! I hope that everyone is enjoying the preparations for whichever mid-winter holiday (or holidays) you celebrate, with a minimum of stress and unexpected expenses!

Oh, who am I kidding, we all know that the traditions of stress and financial delirium in December are the green cherries in the fruitcake  We don’t know how they came about, or why, or if they should even exist, but we all just accept it because it’s what we do and have done for as long as we can remember.

And, you know, alcohol.

Speaking of questionable life decisions, meet Leslie. She’s your typical middle-class working wife and mother to a year-old son, suffering from the typical malaise that often accompanies  those cliches. So when her father dies, leaving a hundred thousand dollars to be split between Leslie and her sister Robin, it’s a chance for Leslie to breathe a little. 

There’s one catch though: in order to claim the money, the sisters, who have been estranged for a decade, have to appear together to sign the paperwork. And when Leslie goes to Vegas to track down Robin, she instead finds Robin’s dead, overdosed body.

But fate (or alcohol) intervenes, as it tends to do. Leslie decides to not report Robin’s death, and instead have a drink or twenty-seven. And that’s when she meets Mary – cocktail waitress, stalking victim, and Robin’s doppelganger. In a plan borne of desperation (and maybe alcohol), Leslie persuades Mary to come home with her for a few days and pretend to be Robin long enough to sign the paperwork, at which point they can both go their separate ways, fifty thousand dollars richer.

It seems easy enough, right? But we all know that you should probably not trust your future to that stranger you got drunk with that one time, especially when both of you have secret motivations and plans of your own. And of course it all becomes a Cat And Mouse Game as they plot against each other and the stakes grow well beyond the cash.

The Better Liar ALMOST nails it. The characters are fun in that infuriating way that all thriller readers are familiar with – we have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing until All Is Revealed. There’s some meaty subtext on the pressures women face in society to be a certain kind of wife or mother or homemaker, and how suffocating those roles can be, and the idea that tradition doesn’t necessarily mean “good thing” (green cherries, I’m looking at you). 

But I feel like Ms.Jones dropped the ball on the plot somewhat. To be a little more specific without spoilers, there was one reveal that I think was supposed to be a major twist that was telegraphed early on, and so the second half of the book wasn’t as exciting as it should have been. I mean, it could just be me, I’ve read so many of these things that my twist-figuring skills are LEGENDARY. (Ok ok ok, maybe closer to slightly above average, but my point stands.)

So in the end, The Better Liar is an OK-bordering-on-meh-level mystery, but a great look at two very well-drawn female characters living with or trying to escape from the choices they’ve made.

THE NERD’S RATING: THREE HAPPY NEURONS (and a few festive cocktails, and what the heck, toss a few green cherries in there. Happy holidays!!)



One thought on “The Better Liar, by Tanen Jones

  1. That sounds like a really cool plot. It’s simple but plunges the protagonist into a tailspin for sure. It’s too bad that it deflated, though. I appreciate your review. I probably won’t read it but I do wonder about it. Great post!


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