The Good Liar, by Nicholas Searle. HarperCollins. 352 pages.
Every so often, a book hooks me on page one. Heck, make that paragraph one: “It is, Roy thinks, perfect. Kismet, serendipity, destiny, happenstance; call it what you will.” Roy is about to leave his apartment for his first date with an Internet match, although it’s clear this isn’t his first dip into online matchmaking. It’s also clear that he’s not a very nice guy as he smugly recalls humiliating previous dates, and hints that he may be after more than love.
His date, Betty, seems much nicer, but as their senior romance progresses we see she also has more in mind than love. We can see she’s conning the con man, but why?
In flashbacks, Nicholas Searle tells Roy’s story back-to-front, beginning in 1998 and progressing back through 1973, 1957, 1946 and 1938, revealing each time a deeper evil. Searle handles all these levels of deception with utter skill. It’s hard work making a story read this easily.
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No Shred of Evidence, by Charles Todd. William Morrow. 352 pages.
Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge travels to Cornwall for a sensitive investigation. Four young upper-class women are accused of attempted murder by a farmer who says they tried to drown a man.
Rutledge’s inquiries turn up a puzzling phantom: a young woman who was friendly with the victim but then disappeared and left no trace. Speaking of phantoms, the ghostly voice in the Inspector’s head, remnant of his WWI trauma, is getting distinctly less air time than in the earlier books. We might hear that Hamish is haranguing Rutledge, but we don’t get whole conversations verbatim. Is the inspector healing?
A Midsummer’s Equation, by Keigo Higashino. Minotaur. 368 pages.
Physics professor Manabu Yukawa, “Detective Galileo,” first met in The Devotion of Suspect X, is drawn into the investigation of a hotel guest’s death in a fading seaside resort town.
Yukawa is in Hari Cove to monitor a scientific survey for a proposed undersea mining operation that is running into opposition by environmentalists.
The dead man turns out to have been a retired homicide detective, which ramps up police interest. Yukawa’s contact in the Tokyo police asks him to quietly find out what he can, so as not to step on local toes.
The translation is excellent: idiomatic and comfortable, avoiding the stilted phrasing of so many stories that get stuck between cultures. And I thoroughly enjoyed the subplot dealing with a bright but neglected fifth-grader, Kyohei, who has been sent to stay with his aunt, uncle and cousin, who run the hotel. Yukawa helps Kyohei with his summer project for school, and counsels both Kyohei and his cousin Narumi, who is one of the opponents of the mining project.
As we surf the latest copycat wave in the genre, the unreliable narrator, it’s nice to spend time with a protagonist who is utterly reliable and is even kind to young people.
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