ABOUT A BOOK #02: MY REVIEW OF LISA JACKSON’S LIAR, LIAR.
Greetings and bienvenue, all.
In this second installment of my About a Book series, I’ll be reviewing Lisa Jackson’s 2018 Mystery/Thriller/Suspense novel Liar, Liar.
First things first, however. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to subscribe to my mailing list by clicking HERE! I’m an author of Young Adult fiction, and my two recently released novels—The Women in White and The Lethal List—are well-reviewed titles now available on Amazon. When you subscribe, you’ll get a FREE copy of my debut YA Mystery novel, The Women in White. Moving forward, you’ll also be updated with all news regarding the release of my new books as well as my newest book reviews, blog entries, interviews, and more!
With that in mind and without further ado, as follows is my review of Lisa Jackson’s Liar, Liar.
Title: Liar, Liar
Author: Lisa Jackson
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: 26 June 2018
Page Length: 368 (Hardcover)
Reading Age: 18 + years
*BE WARNED: MILD TO MEDIUM SPOILERS FOLLOW*
• PREMISE •
Twenty years ago, ex-beauty queen Didi Storm worked the Vegas strip as a celebrity impersonator. Then, one night, she disappeared. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Remmi was en route to a meetup with her crush Noah Scott when she secretly witnessed Didi hand over one of her newborn twins to a strange man. Did vanished soon after, alongside Remmi’s other half-sibling. At the time, Remmi pleaded with the authorities to find Didi and the missing babies, with no success.
Fast-forward to the present day. An unknown author has just released a popular tell-all book revolving around Didi’s life and elements of her disappearance. Remmi is curious to learn more—but as she’s on her way to meet with the book’s publisher, she witnesses a woman who looks just like Didi leap to her death from the ledge of a hotel balcony.
To the police, it looks like suicide or a publicity stunt gone wrong on the part of Didi, who has not been seen in two decades. Remmi, however, deduces very quickly that the dead woman, despite being dressed in Didi’s clothes and wig, is not her mother.
Remmi becomes even more determined then to discover what actually happened to Didi all those years ago, the identity of the mysterious book’s author, and who impersonated her mother before the fatal fall from the hotel balcony. Along the way, Noah Scott resurfaces, now running his own private investigations firm and interested in learning what happened to Didi for his own reasons. But as Remmi and Noah close in on the truth, it becomes evident that powerful people are behind both Didi’s disappearance and the present-day death, people who have killed before to prevent their own exposure and who have no qualms about doing it again.
• MY REVIEW •
First, the good:
1. Lisa Jackson does a masterful job of using thoughtful diction to describe even the most mundane of life behaviors, scenes, and items. The same applies to the characterization for most of the players in the book. Liar, Liar contains VERY many named characters, several of whom get a point of view at some point in the novel. But Jackson, for the most part, rises to the challenge of making each of these characters memorable by uniquely characterizing each one with strongly worded descriptions of them, their circumstances, and their various life goals and priorities.
2. Jackson also does a sterling job of crafting a unique and interesting dialogue style for each individual character, one subtly befitting the character’s personality. There are a few clunky bits of wording interspersed throughout the novel. (Two main examples come to mind. The first is an instance that I suspect was included as a sly bit of social commentary in which one female detective character makes the very on-the-nose statement to her male partner that “It’s not easy being a woman.” The second is a part near the end of the book in which one of the main antagonists essentially spends an entire chapter delivering exposition by monologue before he sets about trying to murder the book’s two protagonists.) But aside from that and for the most part, the dialogue flows almost as smoothly as a nice glass of Australian Shiraz.
3. Liar, Liar is a particularly well-plotted novel whose overall storyline allows for a virtual myriad of mind-blowing twists and turns that I honestly do not believe that even the cleverest of readers will predict before they are revealed.
Now, the bad:
Simply put, this book was not as good as it should’ve been. I was drawn to it because of its premise and blurb alone—and, by all rights, it had the raw materials to be a truly outstanding piece of crime fiction. Nevertheless, it makes a series of very critical mistakes that drag it down and cause it not to live up to its potential.
1. The pacing is off, which ruins the book in two main ways. The first is that the central mystery takes WAY too long to get started, and the second is that the latter fourth of the book is WAY too rushed.
This book begins as a very slow-moving, character-driven affair and stays that way throughout about the first two-thirds of the story. But at around the last third, it morphs into a plot-driven dash to burn off story threads as fast as possible.
After a brief prologue set in the present day, almost a third of the book is spent detailing events that occurred twenty years ago and that set up the book’s central mystery. Approximately the next third of the book is spent establishing Remmi’s new normal in the present day, describing life events that led her to where she is now, and running down empty leads regarding the book’s central mystery. Noah Scott, the book’s secondary main protagonist, only gets a present-day introduction around the start of the book’s last third; and only then does the plot truly begin to accelerate. Granted, once that acceleration begins, it only gets faster and more interesting and hardly decelerates before the very end. But still, the payoff does NOT justify the buildup.
Meanwhile, once the acceleration begins in the book’s last third, plot threads get wrapped up FAR too fast, resulting in an ending that just doesn’t land properly. As the book nears its conclusion, multiple major story beats that have been teased or explained as points of interest all throughout the nearly 400-page book get dropped or nixed or explained away in two or three slapdash sentences, if that. And most of those that aren’t get tied off in very clichéd or underwhelming ways.
Again, two main examples come to mind:
The first is that of the book’s overarching antagonist—who is discovered, explained, defeated, and killed almost as an afterthought within the novel’s last few chapters.
The second is that of the romance between Remmi and Noah. Once Noah enters the present-tense storyline, a mild attraction is teased between him and Remmi throughout the rest of the book, though Remmi spends a good deal of time resisting it. Then, in the last four or so chapters, that romance, without any believable justification, goes practically from zero to sixty. The ultimate result is a tidy and very happy Hallmark ending between Remmi and Noah that, nevertheless, doesn’t feel earned and hardly even seems logical.
2. There are WAY too many POV shifts.
This book features a great many named characters. Jackson largely rises to the occasion here in fleshing out most of them very well, giving them motivations and personalities extending beyond the simple explanation that the story calls for them. This does not, however, offset the jarringly excessive number of perspective switches. Dozens upon dozens of times, the book’s POV shifts without warning from one character to the next to the next; within those changes, there are often further shifts between present-tense and past-tense memories recalled by the characters in question. Given all of the switching between named characters, it can and does sometimes get VERY hard to keep track of who’s experiencing what and when.
3. The novel’s main antagonists are CRIMINALLY underdeveloped.
Several chapters are told from the perspectives of the novel’s two main villains, but neither person is ever given any sort of satisfying motivation for doing what he does. One antagonist is given the very basic motivations of greed and a pathological love for committing murder. The second antagonist’s reasons are more complex, but that itself becomes a problem. Those motives are way too convoluted and unbelievable—and, on top of that, the reader only learns them by exposition from that antagonist in an unfulfilling and stereotypically rambling bad-guy speech near the end of the book.
4. Reading this novel requires an ample suspension of disbelief.
Readers are expected to accept quite a few implausible coincidences, twists, and developments. The book’s present-day mystery almost literally tumbles into Remmi’s lap when she walks by a random hotel just in time for a woman who looks like her mother to fall to her death. Remmi and Noah manage to outdo twenty plus years of police investigation in two states by conducting less than a week of due diligence in their own citizen’s investigation from Remmi’s apartment. Almost every major character in this story is secretly related by blood or circumstances to another major character. Et cetera.
There’s also quite a bit of deus ex machina here, as Remmi and Noah solve multiple overwhelming problems overnight by invoking the help of a computer hacker ally with the stereotypically unlimited ability to bypass any necessary digital system to retrieve useful information.
• BRASS TACKS •
This book is a well-written and reasonably enjoyable outing that comes nowhere close to delivering on its vast potential. Another decent lazy-Saturday read.
• MY RATING •
I give Lisa Jackson's Liar, Liar a solid 3/5 cronuts.