Source: Review copy
Publication: 9TH August 2018 from Penguin
Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.
But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?
Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.
And Susanna realises she was wrong.
She doesn’t know him.
BUT HE KNOWS HER.
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…
I liked Simon Lelic’s The House a great deal, so I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to review his new novel, The Liar’s Room.
It takes a brave writer – and a good one – to set a book in one room with only two characters (there are a couple of others but they don’t materially impact on the narrative).
Susanna is a counsellor. She has had a life before taking on her counselling role; a life she doesn’t talk about and no longer wants to think about. A past she has buried deep. Now she is trying to help people and her sole focus in life is her fourteen year old daughter, Emily. Emily is the light of her life and she would do anything to keep her safe.
Susanna is expecting two new clients when we meet her. The first, Adam Geraghty, is a troubled young man. Susanna thinks there is something familiar about him, but she can’t work out what.
As she begins to chat to him, he reveals that he has a troubled past and a strong compulsion to do harm.
What follows is an intricately played manipulative game of cat and mouse in which the dialogue crackles with menace and suspicion. There’s an intensity to their exchanges that makes it clear that a great deal is at stake here, even although we don’t yet know quite what that might be.
Susanna as the counsellor tries to keep her past buried, and the reader’s imagination goes into overdrive wondering what secrets she is withholding. Yet Adam clearly knows what we do not and as details slowly emerge, we become engaged in psychological warfare played out on a verbal level.
Adam clearly has an agenda, but how much of what he tells Susannah is truth, and how much lies? And what lies is Susannah telling Adam?
As we learn more about Adam and Susannah, the truth begins to emerge and the reader is carried along in an emotional and utterly gripping narrative. I was transfixed as some very strong themes emerged and more than once I found myself switching sides between characters as new information was tabled.
Brilliantly written this is a book that keeps you guessing and makes you think as it raises question after question. Lelic is able to create characters that are not necessarily likeable, yet at the same time you feel for them. This is a book where actions and consequences are fully explored and the emotions of hope, fear and loathing echo alongside the discussion which raises so many important issues such as forgiveness, mental health and what drives someone to suicide.
Lelic has provided a true psychological thriller and it is a strong and disturbing read.
Verdict: A brilliantly written clever and manipulative psychological thriller.
About Simon Lelic
Simon Lelic was born in Brighton in 1976 and, after a decade or so living in London moved back to Brighton with his wife and three young children.
He studied history at the University of Exeter. After graduating, Simon did an MA. After that he took a post-grad course in journalism. After working freelance and then in business-to-business publishing, he now writes novels.
As well as writing, he runs an import/export business. His hobbies include reading, golf, tennis, snowboarding and karate.
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