Short Take: Like a dip on top of a swerve that will knock you for a loop. Just trust me.
(*Note: I received an advance copy of this book for review.*)
I’m back! Have you all missed me? Life got a little weird there for a minute, but I have brought you all a deliciously twisted treat.
The Perfect Liar centers on married couple Susannah and Max, who have a really, REALLY great life. He’s a famous artist, raking in the bucks and traveling the country to give lectures while teaching at a prestigious college. She’s a devoted but fragile mother to her teenage son Freddie from her first marriage to an older man, who left her a widow at a cruelly young age.
So it’s a shock to both Max and Susannah when the first note shows up, a piece of paper taped to the door of their lovely, tasteful home that reads, simply, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. And from there, oh my little duckies, the you-know-what hits the fan and splatters hither and yon in a most spectacular fashion.
This is one of those books that’s hard to describe without spoilers, but we learn early on that Max is harboring a Dark Secret, and that he will Go To Any Length to keep it hidden and let me just say that I was genuinely shocked by exactly how far he would go. And I’ve read Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk so let’s just assume that I know shocking when I see it. Max is scary-smart but not in an over-the-top mastermind kind of way – there’s a much more realistic type of manipulation and self-preservation at work here.
And things only get more intense when the second and third notes show up.
The Perfect Liar is told in alternating voices by both Max and Susannah, and the depth that Mr. Greene gives these characters is dazzling, especially Susannah. The descriptions of her fear and anxiety are so spot-on that I could feel my own adrenalin responding. And when her story veers just ever-so-slightly into highly improbable territory, well, by then I was so enamored of the character that I was happy to hop on that pony and ride it all the way.
And the final reveals, well…. WHOA. I would be a terrible reviewer if I didn’t acknowledge that as much fun as this story is, the last few scenes really stretched the limits of believability. But somehow, it works perfectly. The Perfect Liar unfolds in a way that feels organic, like each event or reveal is the natural result of the one before. Would things happen this way in real life? Almost certainly not. But does the book hang together in a real way regardless?
Does this nerdy reviewer love snacks?
(Spoiler alert: uh, YEAH, on both counts. Feel free to donate chocolate and kettle cooked jalapeno chips.)
Finally, I just want to throw another neuron at Mr. Greene for his finely honed pacing. There’s a LOT of story in under 300 pages, it’s lean and tight and (unlike my reviews) there are no wasted words.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and some alka-seltzer. Happy hangover/leftover day everyone!)