In Searle’s debut novel, two elderly people meet on a dating site. Each one has a hidden agenda....
Roy has been a con man for most of his life, and now in his 80s, he’s looking for one last score by targeting wealthy women he meets online. On the surface, Betty seems like an easy mark, but oblique references suggest from early on that she may be playing her own game with Roy. As the two circle each other, Searle includes flashbacks to Roy’s past, illustrating other cons and, slowly, explaining how he became the manipulator he is. Betty’s motives are a bit more shadowy until her true identity is revealed to the reader. The plot twist that leads to this revelation is complex and rooted in World War II. But once we understand the true natures of both characters, their past relationship, and their plans for revenge, the ending is relatively unsurprising. One of the greatest strengths of the novel is how Searle recounts Betty’s troubled history with sensitivity, but Roy never advances much beyond what he first appears: a gruff sociopath who, expectedly, will finally get his comeuppance for past sins. Despite the efforts to comment on a time in history when people made unimaginable choices that led to devastating tragedy, the novel mostly fails to resonate. Even with layers, the characters fail to inspire much deep interest or sympathy.
The truth is interesting and unexpected, but it takes too long to unravel.