The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard is a mystery thriller about a young woman who is called back to her home in Dublin by her ex-boyfriend (and convicted killer) when there appears to be a copycat killer on the loose. The Liar’s Girl was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.
Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College-and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his four young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just nineteen, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.
Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enrol in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed … and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer-and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in ten years, has never once looked back.
When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess-but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to. The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.
Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all …
This was such an interesting mystery thriller. I enjoyed the concept of a killer already convicted seeking out the help of his ex-girlfriend in the hopes that she’ll help him uncover the “real killer” after new murders occur that appear to by copycats of the original killings. I was so intrigued by this idea that I eagerly whipped through this book. I listened to the audiobook, which was excellently read, and I was hooked.
The main character, Allison, is really relatable and her narrative was very interesting, as it would flip from past and present, giving the reader a picture of what happened during the first “Canal Killer” murders while juxtaposing the current investigations. One thing that I greatly appreciated about the set up of this book was that Allison’s involvement in the investigation made sense. She’s brought back to Dublin because Will, the supposed killer, has asked for her, won’t answer to the detectives unless he gives them information through her. So her “sleuthing” as it were makes sense because she’s working directly with the police in their investigation.
One of the only things that detracted from this story, for me, is something I can’t really discuss in too much detail, since it would be spoiling the book. All I can say, is that the very end was a bit unsatisfactory to me – but not in the way you might think. There are two things that happen in the final stage of the book and I dislike one of those things. If you’ve read the book, I’ll tell you that it’s the very, very last thing on the final pages. Other than that, I can’t really say without giving away anything. It didn’t completely ruin the book for me, but it sort of undercut my complete enjoyment, so I can’t give this book the top marks.
Literary Value: 4/5
I think this was a fairly well-written murder mystery/thriller. I enjoyed the slow peeling back of layers to get at the original circumstances of the first case, in which Will was implicated and finally found guilty. Howard’s juxtaposition between the past and the present is a clever device and I think it works well in the story she has here. It didn’t come off as a cliche or an over-used plot device. It really worked. It also helped built on the characters more – seeing their younger selves vs their present, older selves helped to show how much they’d grown and changed as people. I really enjoyed that.
I really liked all of the characters in this story. I found them to have depth and I could see traits in them that I’ve seen in real life, which gave them a real presence. I’m happy to say that I didn’t dislike any characters except for a couple, and those were characters I’m supposed to dislike, so perfect!
The plot was one of the things that I think really worked well for this book. I couldn’t really see where the end was, nor could I guess it, which is what you want in a murder mystery! I think Howard was smart in how she laid everything out, because moving back and forth between past and present not only provided case “break-throughs,” but it also slowed down my discovery of what was actually going on. So overall, well done!
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
I don’t know if it’s because I listened to the audiobook, or if it’s just because I like the book itself, but I had a good time reading it. The audiobook cast was really good and I enjoyed the light Irish accents!
The book itself is a really well-done mystery. I didn’t guess the end, I was sucked in, along with Allison, on this journey of discovery. I really liked the Detective, as well. I thought he was a really relatable character.
If you enjoy murder mysteries, especially ones like this that involve a serial killer, then you should definitely check this book out!
Cover Art: 3/5
The cover for this book is okay. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the colors, too much. I do appreciate the image of the bridge and the canal, because the killer murders his victims by hitting them on the head and putting them in the canal so they drown. So the setting and atmosphere are relayed pretty well with this image. But I wouldn’t say it’s a very attractive cover. It’s a bit too one-note. If I were passing it by in the a bookshop, I don’t think I’d be that drawn to it. It’s really the description that ended up first engaging me. I have to thank my friend for introducing it to me, otherwise I might not have come across it!
Overall Rating: 3.75/5 Cups of Tea
This was a really well executed mystery with an intriguing concept: a convicted serial killer reconnects with his ex-girlfriend, pleading with her to help him prove his innocence in the light of new murders that could mean the real killer is on the loose. I definitely didn’t guess the ending to this book, which was great, but I also really enjoyed the characters, the setting of the book, and the fact that it all seemed very realistic.
If you enjoy mystery/thrillers, especially ones that involve serial killers, you should definitely check this one out. I’ll be on the look out for more books by this author.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading my review! I hope I’ve helped aid you in your decision to read this book. If you have read it or if you’re thinking about reading it, let me know what you thought in the comments! And as always, happy reading!