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Friday, March 20, 2020


Two sisters. One fortune. But that’s only half the story. (Review by Barry Meehan)

So reads the front cover blurb for The Better Liar, Tanen Jones’ debut novel, which is a pretty good read, full of plot twists and turns, which are impossible to foresee. There are events that occur throughout the book which will find a reader thinking “That’s not really possible” or “that’s a bit far-fetched”, or even “what’s that all about, then?” but all becomes very clear by the time the reader gets to the final pages.

The Better Liar is the tale of estranged sisters, Leslie and Robin. Their father has recently passed away, and has left his estate evenly divided between them, with the proviso that they must reunite if they are to claim their share. The problem is that Robin has not been part of the family for the last ten years, having run away from home to start her own life, leaving Leslie to care for their ailing father.

Leslie is desperate to get her hands on her share of the inheritance, and sets out to find her errant sister, arriving just too late, finding her emaciated body instead. Without Robin, Leslie will get nothing, so she searches desperately for another plan.

Enter Mary, a cocktail waitress and wannabee actress, who would do virtually anything to escape from her current abusive life. Leslie offers her the chance to become Robin and get her share of the inheritance, enabling her to escape to a better life in the future. Mary seizes the opportunity and the two set out to hoodwink the executor of the estate into believing that Mary is really Robin.

The novel has a good flow to it, and is easy reading, being told from the three perspectives of the main characters – Leslie, Mary and Robin. Secrets abound, but how many will come out into the open, and how will they – or did they - affect the other protagonists? Along with the secrets, there are lies a-plenty, and as the story unfolds, we are continually asked the question – just who is the better liar? I challenge all readers of this novel to decide on that before they get to the final explosive scenes.

(Please note this is a direct quote from the book. The words are not those of the reviewer.)

“Tanen Jones grew up in Texas and North Carolina. She has a degree in American history and spent several years editing law and criminal justice textbooks. A queer author, she writes about queer women in dark spaces. Tanen now lives in New York with her partner, where she writes to the sound of her neighbor’s piano. The Better Liar is her debut novel.”

The Better Liar is published by Harvill Secker Publishers. ISBN 978-1-787-30148-1. RRP: R290.00 – Barry Meehan