5 stars out of 5
Thank goodness this one is short, because it's very, very hard to put down. As the official description of "psychological thriller" suggests, it messed with my head - mostly as I tried to figure out what was really going on in the minds of the two primary characters, both of whom clearly are in need of some serious psychiatric help.
One of those characters, Judi, is mother to Ben and grandmother to his two young sons. Another of Judi's sons, David, was killed years ago, but she maintains his bedroom almost as a shrine in the home she shares with her husband. Especially since her relationship with her husband has deteriorated over time, helping Ben with his sons provides her with much-needed joy and comfort - and she'll do absolutely anything to keep them all close. A couple of years earlier, Ben's wife (and mother of the grandsons) died, leaving Ben to raise them on his own. A dedicated teacher, Ben is lonely; but focusing on his work and his sons (and endless help from his mother), he's coping as best he can.
But suddenly, Ben meets Amber - and everything changes. As their whirlwind romance begins, Ben is happy once again; his mother Judi, not so much. As Amber worms her way into Ben's life - taking over "responsibilities" Judi believes are now and always will be hers and threatening her treasured family dynamic - the tension builds. Amber, Judi is certain, is up to no good; and she sets out to find out exactly why that is (and in the process discredit Amber in Ben's rose-colored eyes). That becomes harder as Judi encounters resistance from Ben and her husband, both of whom think she's being overly critical. Judi herself even has a few doubts about her feelings, given that she's also dealing with the physical symptoms of menopause (as an aside, that was a little puzzling to me since Judi is 59 - way beyond the average age of 51. Certainly, it can begin much later, but it's far less common). At any rate, Judi goes to great lengths to keep that change a secret from the men in her life - I suppose because she thinks they'll take her even less seriously (as if that were possible).
Constantly facing opposition from them but convinced Amber is up to no good, Judi begins to dig deeper - and what she learns only bolsters her belief and distrust of Ben's about-to-be second wife. As all that unfolds, readers are treated to snippets of what Amber really is thinking as chapters shift from her perspective to Judi's. The whole thing comes to an exciting climax as dark secrets from the past of both women are revealed.
My conclusion? Pretty creepy - and thus destined to be a hit. Many thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
Liar by K.L. Slater (Bookouture, June 2017); 303 pp.