READ THE OPENING SCENE OF THE LIAR’S GIRL
HER FIRST LOVE CONFESSED TO FIVE MURDERS …
BUT THE TRUTH WAS SO MUCH WORSE.
Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect a copycat is emulating the crimes Will Hurley confessed to as a teen, they turn to him for help. Will says he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.
Alison Smith has spent a decade building a new life. Having moved abroad, she’s confident that her shattered life in Ireland is finally behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past, and the man, she’s worked so hard to forget.
It’s 4:17 a.m. on Saturday morning when Jen comes to on a battered couch in a house somewhere in Rathmines, one of those red-brick terraces that’s been divided into flats, let out to students, and left to rot.
He watches as her face betrays her confusion, but she’s quick to cover it up. How much does she remember? Perhaps the gang leaving the club on Harcourt Street, one behind the other. Pushing their way through the sweaty, drunken crowds, hands gripping the backs of dresses and tugging on the tails of shirts. Maybe she remembers her friend Michelle clutching some guy’s arm at the end of it, calling out to her. Saying they were moving on to some guy’s party, that they could walk there.
“Whose party?” he’d heard her ask.
“Jack’s!” came the shouted answer.
It was unclear whether or not Jen knew Jack, but she followed them anyway.
Now, she’s sitting—slumped—on a sofa in a dark room filled with faces she probably doesn’t recognise. The thin straps of her shimmery black dress stand out against her pale, freckled skin and the makeup around her eyes is smudged and messy. Her lids look heavy. Her head lolls slightly to one side.
Someone swears loudly and flicks a switch, filling the room with harsh, burning light.
Jen squints, then lifts her head until her eyes reach a single bare, dusty bulb that hangs from the ceiling. Back down to the floor in front of her. A guy is crawling around on all fours, searching for something. She frowns at him.
This place is disgusting. The carpet is old and stained. There are broken bits of crisps, hairs, and cigarette ash nestled deep in its pile. It hasn’t been laid. Instead, the floor is covered with large, loose sections of carpet, ragged and frayed at the edges, with patches of dusty bare floor showing in between. The couch faces a fireplace that’s been blocked off with chipboard, while an area of green paint on the otherwise magnolia chimney breast marks where a mantelpiece once stood. Mismatched chairs—white patio, folding camping accessory, ripped beanbag—are arranged in front of it. Three guys sit in them, passing around a joint.
Another, smaller couch is to Jen’s left. That’s where he sits.
The air is thick with smoke and the only window has no curtains or blinds. The bare glass is dripping with tributaries of condensation.
He can’t wait to leave.
Jen is growing uncomfortable. Her brow is furrowed. He watches as she clasps her hands between her thighs and hunches her shoulders. She shifts her weight on the couch. Her gaze fixes on each of the three smokers in turn, studying their faces. Does she know any of them? She turns her head to take in the rest of the room—
She’s seen them.
To the right of the fireplace, too big to fit fully into the depression between the chimney breast and the room’s side wall, stands an American-style fridge/freezer, gone yellow-white and stuck haphazardly with a collection of garish magnets.
Jen blinks at it.
A fridge in a living room can’t be that unusual to her. As any student looking for an affordable place to rent in Dublin quickly discovers, fridges free-standing in the middle of living rooms adjacent to tiny kitchens are, apparently, all the rage. But if Jen can find a clearing in the fog in her head, she’ll realize there’s something very familiar about this one.
She’s distracted by the boy sitting next to her. Looks to be her age, nineteen or twenty. He nudges her, asks if she’d like another drink. She doesn’t respond. A moment later he nudges her again and this time she turns toward him.
The boy nods toward the can of beer she’s holding in her right hand, mouths, Another one?
Jen seems surprised to find the beer can there. Tilting it lazily, she says something that sounds like, “I haven’t finished this one yet.”
The boy gets up. He’s wearing scuffed suede shoes with frayed laces, jeans, and a blue and white striped shirt, unbuttoned, with a T-shirt underneath. Only a thin slice of the T-shirt is visible, but it seems the design on it is a famous movie poster. Black, yellow, red. After he leaves, Jen relaxes into the space he’s vacated, sinking down until she can rest the back of her head against a cushion. She closes her eyes—
Opens them up again, suddenly. Pushes palms down flat on the couch, scrambling into an upright position. Stares at the fridge.
This is it.
Her mouth falls open slightly and then the can in her hand drops to the floor, falls over and rolls underneath the couch. Its contents spill out, spread out, making a glug-glug-glug sound as they do. She makes no move to pick it up. She doesn’t seem to realize it’s fallen.
Unsteadily, Jen gets to her feet, pausing for a second to catch her balance on towering heels. She takes a step, two, three forward, until she’s within touching distance of the fridge door. There, she stops and shakes her head, as if she can’t believe what she’s seeing.
And who could blame her?
Those are her magnets.
The ones her airline pilot mother has been bringing home for her since she was a little girl. A pink Eiffel Tower. A relief of the Grand Canyon. The Sydney Opera House. The Colosseum in Rome. A Hollywood Boulevard star with her name on it.
The magnets that should be clinging to the microwave back in her apartment in Halls, in the kitchen she shares with Michelle. That were there when she left it earlier this evening.
Jen mumbles something incoherent and then she’s moving, stumbling back from the fridge, turning toward the door, hurrying out of the room, leaving behind her coat and bag, which had been underneath her on the couch all this time.
No one pays any attention to her odd departure. The party-goers are all too drunk or too stoned or both, and it is too dark, too late, too early. If anyone notices, they don’t care enough to be interested. He wonders how guilty they’ll feel about this when, in the days to come, they are forced to admit to the Gardaí what little they know.
He counts to ten as slowly as he can stand to before he rises from his seat, collects Jen’s coat and bag, and follows her out of the house.
She’ll be headed home. A thirty-minute walk because she’ll never flag down a taxi around here. On deserted, dark streets because this is the quietest hour, that strange one after most of the pub and club patrons have fallen asleep in their beds but before the city’s early-risers have woken up in theirs. And her journey will take her alongside the Grand Canal, where the black water can look level with the street and where there isn’t always a barrier to prevent you from falling in and where the street lights can be few and far between.
He can’t let her go by herself. And he won’t, because he’s a gentleman. A gentleman who doesn’t let young girls walk home alone from parties when they’ve been drinking enough to forget their coat, bag, and—he lifts the flap on the little velvet envelope, checks inside—keys, college ID, and phone too.
And he wants to make sure Jen knows that.
Mr. Nice Guy, he calls himself.
He hopes she will too.