THE BETTER LIAR by Tanen Jones


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A darkly complex relationship between two sisters lies at the heart of Jones’ debut psychological thriller.

Leslie Flores has a problem. For the past seven years, she's taken care of her father as he wasted away from thyroid cancer in New Mexico. Now that he’s died, Leslie must sort out his estate by herself since her younger sister, Robin, fled the family home a decade ago, when she was 16, checking in only when she needed money—which her father, to Leslie's frustration, would send her. But it turns out that their father split the $100,000 he left behind between Leslie and Robin, saying they would have to appear together at his lawyer's office in Albuquerque to collect it. Leslie needs that money and is determined to get it at any cost, and she manages to track Robin down. Her plan to bring her sister home hits a snag, though, when she finds Robin’s body in her squalid rented room in Las Vegas. Instead of calling the authorities, Leslie leaves the scene. A possible solution to Leslie’s new problem arrives in the form of waitress/aspiring actress Mary, whom Leslie meets outside a Vegas restaurant. They strike up a conversation, which eventually leads to a proposition. Mary looks a bit like Robin, so Leslie asks her to put her acting skills to good use and pose as Robin to help her collect the inheritance, offering Mary half the money for her trouble. One dye job later and Mary, posing as Robin, accompanies Leslie to Albuquerque to meet her husband, Dave, and their little boy, Eli. Leslie’s scheme should go off without a hitch, but she didn’t count on the dangerously magnetic and quietly cunning Mary using her new persona to dig into Robin’s life (and then some), Leslie’s marriage…and her secrets. Readers also get a disturbing look at the sisters’ strange bond and the circumstances surrounding their mother’s death. Of particular note is Jones’ depiction of how Leslie’s relationship with her troubled mother indelibly influenced how she relates to Eli. A nicely noir, if not completely surprising, couple of twists round out this feverish thriller.

A blistering debut from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-984821-22-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2019