“They were cons long before they were parents. The next big job, and their self-preservation, has always come first. It always will.”

Perfect Liars, Kimberly Reid

Andrea Faraday is in her junior year at the prestigious—and expensive—Woodruff School. She’s at the top of her class, known for her volunteerism and all-around Good Girl qualities, and her social status is helped by her family’s claim of distant royal connections on both sides: her mother, descended from a Nordic king, and her father, the great-great-great grandson of a Nigerian prince. She lives a comfortable life of luxury and privilege, wants for nothing—in fact, often has MORE than she wants—and is on a fast-track to life as a successful adult.

But appearances can be deceiving. The residents of Peachland, Georgia know Drea’s parents as honest antique dealers, and it’s true that they’ve been in antiques for decades… but the “honest” part only came about in the last few years. They’d both been in the con game from the time they were children, and only put it behind them when it threatened their oldest child’s future. Now, after coming out of semi-retirement via a large-scale heist—a heist that, from Drea’s perspective, came out of nowhere—Drea’s parents have disappeared, and her perfect facade is beginning to crumble.

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I’ve been looking forward to reading Perfect Liars for months—con artists! a caper! a diverse cast! family drama! romance! starred review from Kirkus!—so I was honestly shocked to find that I not only didn’t enjoy it, but had a hard time even getting through the entire 326 pages. There were some strong elements—I loved that this was a book about grifters starring a girl who was really bad at grifting; I loved that she spent almost the entire thing on crutches after spraining her ankle early on; I loved the commentary about privilege, about code-switching, about privacy, about the tension that could come from a cop in a family of criminals—but the overall execution was more than lacking.

The dialogue is often stiff and unbelievable:

“They said the cons were over, that I’d get to graduate from Woodruff. They even put our name on that stupid bench, like it would be the last surname we’ll ever use.” (88)

“You’ve had a tough time of it since you left Woodruff. You could still go to jail, and yet you seem pretty upbeat.” (202)

Much of the plotting is conveyed via infodump, and it’s extremely repetitive, with the same information getting trotted out again and again:

Drea knew she was being ridiculous not trusting Damon, but after being taught her whole life never to trust a cop, it was hard to let go of the instinct, even if the cop was her brother. (111)

As hard as she worked at being good, it was in her blood to dislike the police, but now that her brother was one, she was grateful there were a few people out there who didn’t automatically hate him. (112)

Considering that this book is being marketed as a thriller, the pacing is brutally slow, and when things actually HAPPEN, they happen out of nowhere, with no real lead-up. The conspiracy that our heroine is working to unravel only really gets introduced in the last fifty pages—again, out of nowhere—so until that reveal, there’s very little tension or suspense.

The characterization, the relationship-building, and the romance are all slight at best—these characters are chess pieces, not people. Drea has the ability to always spot lies… except when that doesn’t work, plot-wise. She struggles a lot with guilt, and given her background and situation, that entirely makes sense. But when a reader has little-to-no emotional investment in a character, lengthy interior monologues about said character’s feelings don’t pack much punch.

Nutshell: Perfect Liars reads like an early draft, not a finished book.

In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.