The Liar's Girl

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I listened to a lot of this book on audio with Irish accents. My parish priest is Irish so I regularly hear the Irish accent. The accent on the audio is mild and perfectly understandable. There is only a brief moment at the end of the audio where the accent was very strong. (I am writing this from the perspective of someone who speaks English with an American accent.)

Although it's not a book I normally would pick since crime/mystery is not my favorite genre, as soon as I read the description I was excited to read the book; I was not disappointed. There are a few red herrings which make the story interesting, but not overwhelming for the novice sleuth. There are a couple of threads that don't get tied up neatly at the end, but it's nothing that keeps me awake at night.

I found all the characters relatable, and mostly likeable. The story is told in the now and the then, like so many stories today that bounce back and forth between back story and current day. Allison is the main character. She was from Cork, a small town in Ireland, went away to Dublin for college with her childhood best friend, met Will, who became her first real boyfriend and with whom she spends almost every moment outside of their classes. Then, much to Allison's surprise, Will confesses to being the serial killer who has been attacking women and dumping their bodies into the canal. Allison gives her testimony then moves to the Netherlands where she avoids thinking about the tragedy until it comes knocking on her door ten years later.

Even though Will is still locked up, there has been another killing. Will claims to have information but won't talk to anyone but Allison. The novel then proceeds with Allison's efforts to help the current investigation juxtaposed with Allison's memories of her early college life. There were some minor twists and surprises but nothing ridiculous. As an example of how much I enjoyed this novel - I was really glad when a human error caused me to make an additional 2 hour round trip on Good Friday afternoon because it meant more time to listen to the book!

The book did not have chapter numbers but the Kindle assigns them.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 1

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 3

Morality: 2

Traditional: 3

Sex - memories of a boyfriend's intimate touch (Ch. 7, ePg. 42)

Religion - the Lord's name taken in vain (Ch. 16, ePg. 105)

Gruesome - there are no details of the women being killed or dumped in the canal

Suspense - before she goes in to see Will, Shaw tells Allison to "remember what he did to Liz". (Ch. 6, ePg. 39)

Morality - a young couple in college sleeps together regularly

Traditional - a few spots of subtle commentary on social media and cell phone usage (Ch. 8, ePg. 50) A 30 year old uses cuss words towards their mother and the mother reminds them to not use harsh language. (Ch. 16, ePg. 105) A guy who was normally mild-mannered and caring towards his girlfriend suddenly starts cussing at her and calling her names. (Ch. 23, ePg. 151)

I am not normally a mystery/crime story reader and often feel overwhelmed by the number of potential suspects and the distractors. This novel, however, was very enjoyable. There were enough red herrings to keep it interesting but I never felt confused or frustrated.

Discussion Questions

In the opening chapter, Jen was looking at refrigerator magnets that her pilot-mother had brought home for her from Paris, Arizona, Sydney, Rome and Hollywood. What magnets do you have on your refrigerator?

In Chapter 5 we read about Allison's excitement at being accepted to St. John's. (ePg. 28)

Do you have a college acceptance story to tell?

When Ali saw Will after ten years, and first heard his voice, she almost got overcome with memories. (Ch. 6, ePg. 41)

Have you ever been swept away by the past - good or bad?

Allison's mom said they let her leave the country because they thought she needed a little time, but they expected that in a few years she'd realize "that what happened didn't quite warrant [her] reaction to it". (Ch. 16, ePg. 104)

Do you think Allison overreacted or did her parents underreact?

When Malone and Shaw visited Allison at her mother's house, they had a hard time convincing Mam to leave the room so they could have a private discussion. (Ch. 19, ePg. 121) Was the mom's resistance to leave protective or suspicious?

When Allison looked in the closet in her mom's back bedroom and saw the shirt she was wearing when she met Will,

she wondered who she'd be now if that girl had continued.

What chapter in your life do you wonder about where you'd be now if it was written differently?

Liz told Allison that she'd had lunch with Will at the mall. Will told Allison that they'd only spoken for a couple of minutes. Whose version did you believe?

Even though Malone said few people knew about her visit, did you think that someone inside the Guardia department leaked the information to the papers about Allison's visit? (Ch. 15, ePg. 97) Will still held a grudge against Shaw, ten years later, because Shaw was "the one who bullied that confession out of" him. (Ch. 22, ePg. 146)

Do you believe that Shaw intentionally framed Will?

While Malone and Shaw are visiting Allison at her mom's house (Ch. 19), Shaw suddenly starts referring to Allison as "love" (5 times in this chapter) whereas before it had only happened twice (Ch. 4 and Ch. 6 - one time each).

Did this seem out of character to you? Was it significant?

(no spoilers) Towards the end of the novel we start to see a romantic connection between Allison and another character.

Were you in favor of their relationship? What do you think happened with them after the novel?

What about the other main character who might have wanted a relationship with Allison?

At the end, Will explains how he left his cell phone at home one night, realized he left it but left anyway, figuring he wouldn't be gone long. That decision wound up being a game changer. Have you ever had a domino effect resulting from you leaving your phone at home?

How did you feel about Will after the Allison chapters were done? And after the final Will chapter?

Theme Ideas

Serve "Black Velvet" (Guiness and champagne) like Allison and Stephen drank at Sal's dinner party at the beginning of the novel."

Serve Buck's Fizz (fizzy orange juice / champagne with orange juice) like Allison's mother served the morning she got her school acceptance. (Ch. 5, ePg. 29)

Decorate with a package of Berocca like Allison received in her "college starter pack". (Ch. 5, ePg. 32)

Serve (Smirnoff) vodka & Coke like Claire made when the young college students were going out to "Essence". (Ch. 11, ePg. 72)

Serve tea and biscuits like when Malone and Shaw visited Allison at her mom's house. (Ch. 19, ePg. 121)

Serve mulled wine and mince pies like Liz and Allison got from the street vendors on their Christmas night in Dublin.

Serve coffee from a cafetier and croissants like at Malone's house.

Offer your guests stickers to replicate the Traffic Light Ball. ("red for in a relationship, green for single, orange for somewhere in between" ePg. 156)