The Better Liar by Tanen Jones (ARC Review)

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 14, 2020)
Descripton from the publisher: 

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.
When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

It's pretty well documented that thrillers are not my go-to genre. Alas, I do cave to them every so often, especially ones that get ALL THE BUZZ. The Better Liar is one of those that broke through on my radar, and had great early feedback. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to read an early copy!
The multiple narrators grabbed my attention from the beginning, with Robin's account delivered from the afterlife, Leslie's as the living sister, and Mary's as the stand-in. As the story unfolds, my allegiance and empathy bounced between Leslie and Mary, both seeming to be in a bad situation. Trying to figure out the lies and the truths being concealed was an ominous slow build. Just as I thought I had a inkling of what secrets they were keeping, the plot would thicken further. I definitely had that 'I HAVE to know how this is going to end' feeling. Jones' writing was propulsive and astute.
"They think the closer you are to someone, the more they narrow; that love shears you down to the slimmest core, as if people contained seeds you could fish out and keep, saying, That's the real you; all the rest is just flesh. But it's the other way around. The more you know someone, the more someones you know. They kaleidoscope outward before your eyes. If you feel you're finally getting a handle on someone's true self, you haven't got at clue. Once you've met forty versions of them, then you can comfort yourself you're getting closer." 
As is the case with thrillers, I spent a lot of time guessing the various twists. Mary's secrets were a bit easier to fetter out, and she breathed the most life into the story. Leslie's was a harder nut to crack, and harder to empathize with until the very end. I thought the direction the author took with her character was rather thought provoking, and that ending gave her, and the novel, some gravitas. I don't think I can speak to it further without spoilers, so I'll just recommend that you read it!
Many thanks to Taylor Noel and the folks at Random House for a complimentary advance copy!


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