Book Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

The Better Liar is about a woman, Leslie, who inherits a large sum of money from her father. In order to collect her half of the insurance, she must appear before the lawyer with her sister Robin. It takes Leslie three months to track Robin down, and by the time she arrives at her sisters apartment, her sister has OD’d and died. On her way back to Albuquerque, Leslie chances across a woman (Mary) who looks a lot like her sister, and hatches a plan to collect her inheritance anyway, using Mary as a double.

We read this story from three points of view, Leslie, Mary, and Robin’s ghost. All three women are liars. The reader is never sure at any given moment which of them to trust. The lies here aren’t necessarily outrageous, jaw-dropping lies. Calling them lies might even be a stretch- some of them are more like secrets or half truths. While they never made me stop to question what the heck was going on, the whole novel manages to be suspenseful. A lot of it was because I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the big reveal.

When we finally get to that point, it was a pretty awesome moment. Some readers may guess it, but I sure didn’t. This is a low-key sort of suspense. I was never bored and I read the book in just three sittings, always compelled to keep turning the pages, but I think it was more about the characters than the plot, which is not usually what I expect in a suspense novel. At its heart- this is a novel about both sisterhood and motherhood, and I think Jones did well with portayals of both.

The writing and structure were wonderful. The chapters were quick and the overall length was just what it needed to be.  I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think there is a lot of suspension of disbelief needed for the plot to work. I can’t say why that’s needed without spoiling a lot of important plot points, so I’ll just leave it at that. I can see it being a sticking point for some readers.

Anyway- I really enjoyed this debut effort by Tanen Jones and I’ll look forward to more of her work in the future.  The Better Liar releases on January 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who sent an ARC in exchange for review.

15 thoughts on “Book Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

    • Definitely worth trying! I think thrillers give me a good break from SFF. They are fast paced, generally pretty exciting/suspenseful… I try to read 1 or 2 every couple months. I think t would be a genre easy to burn out on so I limit what I read. If you are looking for another thriller to try my favorite since Gone Girl was definitely Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney!

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    • It was kinda fun! Definitely more on the literRy side of things but I really enjoyed it and flew through it. And I’m definitely adding Liar! Sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the rec!

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  1. I always like books with doppelgangers. I’ve actually encountered a few people in life whom I SWORE were someone else I knew very well and saw frequently. It’s such an odd feeling.

    Adding in a ghost seems almost playful; I imagine she’s angry that they hatched this plan, or sad that she’s missing out.

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    • You know- I never thought about it that way as far as what the ghost thinks? I just kind of went with it. But she doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the present. She’s giving us another view of Leslie. Because Robin’s view of their childhood and Leslie’s view of it are two very different stories. In One Leslie is abusive to her sister even though Robin always loved her, in another Leslie is always envious of Robin because she’s the pretty one, the fierce one, she has more adventures and isn’t held back by her parents. Which is why I think at its heart it’s a suspense story about sister and motherhood.

      If the ghost reflected more on the present though that would have definitely added another layer of context!

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      • Oh, I see! Memory is so challenging; we never remember things the way someone else does, so I feel like in the end we’re all gaslighting each other accidentally. So, maybe gaslighting isn’t the right word.

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