The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

Dublin, 10 years ago. Alison Smith joined St John’s College and fell in love with Will Hurley. But Alison’s world fell apart when Will confessed to being the Canal Killer, the murderer of five girls from the same college. Desperate to get away from the tragedy, Alison relocates abroad and never looked back.

But now, more girls are being killed, their bodies dumped in the canal. Is someone copying the original killer – or is it possible that the real killer was never caught? And if so, why did Will confess to the crimes? Once the killings start again, Will announces that he will talk – but only to Alison. As she returns to Dublin, it is clear that somebody is stalking her – does the killer have her on his list this time?

Catherine Ryan Howard’s first book, Distress Signals, was an outstanding debut, a thriller with hints of the classic mystery format, with a cracking twist or two. It was deservedly nominated for the Debut Dagger last year and now – well, on March 1st – the follow-up, this book, hits the shelves.

It’s another very well written stand-alone thriller, with a strong narrative voice in Alison. The action oscillates between the present day and the past as secrets are revealed in both time frames. Alison’s uncertainty regarding Will’s guilt – she was certain when she left, but now… As she begins her own investigations – and I was impressed how the author dealt convincingly with how Alison’s journey from sort-of victim to active protagonist.

There are questions for the reader to ponder – what was the motive for the Canal Killer? How was he selecting his victims? If Will is innocent, why did he confess? If Will is guilty, why is someone copying him? And there are a couple of delightfully creepy moments as we see… well, a person who is guilty of something’s point of view and some clever ideas, notably the link between the victims. However, and I’m going to add my usual caveat here about having read far too many crime books, I did see the last twist coming from quite early on – there was a question that only really had one answer – that’s all I say.

Nonetheless, despite that last bit, this is a gripping, well-written read with clever ideas that kept me turning the pages. Many thanks to the author for sending me a review copy – much appreciated.

The Liar’s Girl is released on March 1st, and is definitely Recommended.

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