Book review: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

Sunday, May 20, 2018 Permalink

I just commented in my last review that I was reading an inordinate number of books about old crimes and incarcerated peeps accused claiming they’re innocent. And… voila, here’s another.

Book review: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan HowardThe Liar's Girl
by Catherine Ryan Howard
Published by Corvus
on March 1st 2018
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 178239897X, 9781782398974
Pages: 304

Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

Dublin's notorious Canal Killer is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect a copy-cat is emulating the crimes Will Hurley confessed to as a teen, they must turn to Ireland's most prolific serial killer for help. Will admits he has the information the cops need, but will only give it to one person - the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

Alison Smith has spent a decade building a new life abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past, and the man, she's worked so hard to forget.

No one in Alison’s new life in the Netherlands knows anything about her history in Ireland…. ie. that she was the girlfriend of a serial killer. Or the fact that his final victim was her own best friend.

As the blurb notes, she’s called back when similar crimes start occurring a decade after Will was locked away and she left the country (for good, she’d hoped)!

Although Alison has no desire to relive the past, she agrees to see Will to get the information he claims to have.

In reality he doesn’t actually offer anything new, but has questions and regrets. We soon learn – though Will pled (pleaded?) guilty to the murders years before he now claims to be innocent – suggesting he was railroaded at the time and framed by persons unknown.

Alison regrets being duped by Will back then. And Ryan Howard takes us back in time, initially to give us a sense of Alison and her dependence on her childhood best friend and her meeting with Will at University; in particular how the latter impacted on her other relationships. Even now Alison fails to reconcile the gentle and caring young man she knew with the one accused of murder. Of course his own confession reminds her of her stupidity.

And now, years later… she has no idea what to believe but refuses to be fooled again.

Ryan Howard doesn’t give a lot away. There’s the obvious option that this is a copycat killer. Or… perhaps Will had an accomplice back then? There’s certainly some evidence to suggest it might have been possible.

And Alison has her own secrets and guilt over Will’s crimes and the accusations levelled against him, which is one of the reasons she hangs around, working alongside one of the local cops who believes Will may be innocent.

I enjoyed this book and Ryan Howard introduces a number of red herrings. Just as Alison’s being reminded of the gentle man Will was, he rails against her, losing his temper and we get a glimpse of someone who might be hiding something. And then there’s Alison’s own relationship with her best friend… the final victim of Will’s alleged spate of killings.

There’s a logic to the investigation here, and I liked the natural progression of the unfolding mystery. There were however, a few little glitches that confused me… (for those who’ve read the book – mention of Alison remembering getting dressed and going to a tutorial the morning after Liz’s death – I think – which didn’t seem to fit and suggested something more sinister perhaps….)

Anyway, that aside, this is great crime fiction. A whodunnit more than a psychological thriller, if that makes sense, but one that’s solvable if we put our minds to it and focus on the clues.

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.



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