A man and a woman of a certain age meet on a dating site. From the first, we see that Roy is scamming wealthy widowed Betty. But after a while it becomes difficult to tell who is scamming who.
Nicholas Searle’s debut novel, The Good Liar (Harper), is competently imagined and sharply told. It is confident, muscular and richly detailed. Prepublication, it was also one of the most hotly desired novels of its year when, as The Reckoning, rights were enthusiastically bid upon and then sold for big bucks in the US and the UK.
The idea for the novel — the germ of the beginning, in a way — came to Searles through a mismatch made by someone dear to him. As the author himself tells it:
It began with a character. Just one person. No plot, no scenes, no messages (I dislike messages). I began writing about him with no idea where he would take me and the rest somehow rolled out of all the nooks and crannies of my mind onto the page, in I hope a moderately coherent fashion.
A relative of whom I’m very fond … found herself in difficulty four or five years ago. She’d been a widow for some years and was lonely. She sought companionship — not necessarily romance, not even primarily romance, but someone to be with — and went on to the internet, where there are numerous websites, some reputable, some less, that offer an introduction service to people of all ages.
My elderly relative found her “match” and duly met him, a charming man…. She took to him immediately and he apparently to her.
It was not until he moved into her house in Dorset that I actually met him. Roy was imposing, bluff and ever-watchful. And he told lies all the time, regardless of whether he stood to gain b doing so. If there was a choice, he would dissemble, and generally badly. If he’d been a good liar it might have taken me longer to find out.
The relationship ended badly, except for Searles, who found himself with the inspiration for a character who would ultimately drive the author’s debut work.