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12 January 2016

Novels to come out of Curtis Brown Creative #6: The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

by Ellis Keene

Nicholas Searle was a student on the second of our online writing courses back in 2014. He submitted his novel to Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller when the classes finished and was called back almost immediately. The novel was then sold to Viking in the UK, HarperCollins in the US, and to several other publishers throughout the world. The Good Liar comes out in the UK on Thursday 14 January, and Nicholas has already been picked by The Observer as one of its New Faces of Fiction for 2016.

Ageing conman Roy wants to perform one last trick before he retires for good. With this in mind he organises a date with Betty, a glamorous and wealthy widow who he’s met online. Roy plans to steal Betty’s life savings, before retiring into the sunset with his winnings. Initially lying about his name, Roy quickly reveals ‘that was the last time I will lie to you Betty. Everything I say to you from now on will be the truth.’ It is this paradox upon which the book is based; nothing is as it first appears. Their relationship quickly escalates and they begin living together, mostly for companionship. However, Betty seems to have her own agenda, and seems a little too willing to comply with a man she has only recently met and knows nothing about. Who is Roy, and who is Betty? As the novel unfolds, the reader begins to unravel Roy’s lies and his plans for the final con.

The Good Liar is a must read; gripping and dramatic. The most compelling aspects of this debut are the lies and deceit that run throughout the narrative. We are constantly invited to decipher the truth; some characters appear under different names and the reader must decide what is real, piecing together bits of the puzzle as they go along. The characters’ true motives are constantly in question – why is Roy so devious and why does Betty’s grandson Stephen distrust him so?

The novel alternates present-day action with flashbacks of Roy’s and Betty’s earlier lives, going right back to World War II, and the uncluttered and decisive dialogue particularly lends itself to a precise characterisation of Roy, a man of conviction and determination. Nicholas Searle’s decision to give us access to some of his innermost thoughts helps build the tension wonderfully, until a dramatic twist towards the end gives the novel an entirely new dimension. The Guardian called The Good Liar a ‘thriller that will trip you up’ and leaves you wanting to ‘experience Nicholas Searle’s next trick’.

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle is published in the UK by Viking. To buy a copy, please click here.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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