Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Liar's Candle” as Want to Read:
Liar's Candle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Liar's Candle

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  565 ratings  ·  139 reviews
In this brilliant debut thriller, reminiscent of the works of John le Carre and Olen Steinhauer and infused with the authenticity of the author’s travels, a young American State Department intern based in Turkey becomes “the woman who knows too much” and is marked for death.

Penny Kessler, an intern at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, wakes up in a hospital on the morning
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Scribner (first published April 10th 2018)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Liar's Candle, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Liar's Candle

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  565 ratings  ·  139 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Liar's Candle
Pity the poor intern. Penny Kessler is far from home, working with no pay for the summer at the US Embassy in Ankara, translating newspapers from Turkish to English. She wakes up in the Ulus Devlet (Ankara’s state) hospital after an explosion at the Embassy Fourth of July party. 256 are dead; many others injured; her is-he-or-isn’t-he-not-quite-boyfriend, Zach, is missing. Everyone thinks she knows something about the bombing plot – the Turkish government, the US State Department, the CIA, even ...more
Penny Kessler had only been in Turkey at the US Embassy in Ankara for three weeks when she was caught up in a horrific bombing in which hundreds were killed. Injured, dizzy and disoriented, Penny only knew she was in hospital and that many people she had known, had died. The shock and dismay she felt to see herself, bloodied and panicked, on the front pages of many newspapers was only the beginning of the most traumatic time in Penny’s life.

When Penny discovered a friend, diplomat Zack Robson wa
This is a very enjoyable spy-type thriller set in modern day Turkey. It opens with the bombing of a July 4th party at the US Embassy in Ankara. Our narrator, intern Penny Kessler is injured and wakes up in a Turkish hospital with concussion to find that many of her friends and colleagues have been killed. Just before the explosion, Penny had been talking to her colleague Zach and a Turkish man who Zach asked her to include on the invitation list for the party and now they have disappeared and ar ...more
Cindy Burnett
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Liar’s Candle is an incredibly well-written spy novel with an authentic and believable cast of characters and a page-turner of a plot. Penny Kessler is an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey who survives a bombing of an Embassy party and is thought to have information on the bombing which causes her to flee for her life. August Thomas provides just enough backstory on Penny to make her a plausible heroine and keeps the reader guessing on the rest of the characters – who is truly helping ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Liar's Candle, by August Thomas, is an interesting fast-paced political thriller.
21 year old Penny Kessler, an intern at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey wakes up in a hospital on July 5th, the day after a disastrous bomb has killed hundreds of people at the embassy's Independence Day party. She is one of the few survivors and her bosses believe she's a crucial witness.
As she struggles to piece together her memories, while being interrogated by her superiors, Penny understands she doesn't know
L.A. Starks
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the internationally-set thriller (with a U.S. focus) for which you've been waiting. Superb action, sympathetic protagonist, unusual and exotic setting by an author who knows the place and the language. Well-paced, well-written, good characters--I hope to see many more books like this from August Thomas.

Put Liar's Candle at the top of your to-read list.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Homeland
What a blast! No, really - the story begins in the aftermath of the 4th of July bombing of the US Embassy in Ankara. Mass casualties, the media going into overdrive and the government in lockdown. State Department intern, Penny Kessler, wakes in hospital, battered, bruised, bewildered, but alive. And from that moment on, for the next 2 days, nothings stands still. Who knows what? Who can Penny trust? With no special knowledge or skills to rely on, other than her language and common sense, Penny ...more
Joseph Finder
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A stunning debut, a book that brings the traditions of Le Carré and Follett into the 21st century. Breakneck pacing, sharply observed detail, an all-too-plausible plot and a protagonist to cheer for — well done, August Thomas. Well done.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Watch me discuss this book in my February wrap up: ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spys-espionage
From the cover jacket “Reminiscent of John LeCarre and Owen Steinhauer”. Please. More like the basis for a Lifetime TV movie. Possible title: Penny has an Adventure.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Political spy thriller with cinematic appeal and a strong sense of place.

Plot? Conspiracy heavy, but believable.

Narrative? Rather implausible, but who cares when you’re turning the pages as fast you can read them.

Characters? Eh, let’s just say it’s not at the level of le Carre as the blurb would have you believe, but plucky Penny and cunning Connor are wonderful characters you root for and want to know.

Tension filled and exciting, If you’re willing to suspend disbelief for a hell of a good story
Reeca Elliott
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-app, edelweiss
Set in the unique place of Turkey, this book starts with a bang. A bomb explodes at the U.S. embassy party, killing hundreds of people. One of the survivors is a young intern, Penny. Penny wakes up in the hospital after the bombing with very few memories of the event. The photograph of her emerging from the rubble sends her on the ride of her life. What does she know?
The setting of the embassy in Turkey is really what first interested me about this story. This unusual place, customs and people ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Scribner for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

If you have followed my reviews for awhile, then you know how much I love political thrillers. Anything with some espionage thrown in will have my attention. With my senior projects in college being about espionage, this is an element I will always love having in with the thriller genre. LIAR'S CANDLE includes a terrorist attack on a US Embassy, the lone survivor running from the Turkish forces as well as from her own gov
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
A fast read. Fun. Written with the movie rights for the popcorn movie it's bound to be firmly in mind. (J Law's too obvious, but... maybe Alicia Vikander?) Calling it "brilliant" and likening it to LeCarre goes too far, as the protagonist has a thoroughly implausible lucky streak, but who cares? It's fun! It's summer. You're on the porch, feet up. Why kvetch?

✰  BJ's Book Blog ✰Janeane ✰
ARC received from Simon & Schuster Australia for an honest review

Political/spy thrillers are my jam at the moment, and this debut from August Thomas started with a bang, and had the adrenaline pumping right till the end.

Liar's Candle is a seductive game of cat and mouse, the reader wondering who are the good guys, who are the bad. Who can be trusted.

I mean seriously, who is really the enemy?

I was whisked away on an adrenaline filled journey along with Penny and those who are dragged into her l
Ryley (Ryley Reads)
I really didn't know what to expect going into this book - the premise sounded interesting but for whatever reason, I've never really read a lot of international spy/corrupt government novels. I wasn't sure how I would like it but I'm glad that I ended up picking this book up!

Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

The story follows 21-year-old Penny, who is an intern at the American State Depa
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the Foreign Service & thrillers
As soon as I saw the summary for this one, I had to read it. I don't run into very many books that give a glimpse into the life of Foreign Service Officers or the diplomatic intern life, so I had to read it. I'm so glad that I did as it was quite a page turner.

Penny is an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey and owing to the happenstance of surviving a horrendous bombing, her life is further turned upside down in a race against the clock. With so many people on so many sides looking for Penny,
Mar 31, 2018 marked it as to-read
This sounds amazing, and right up my alley (and the author started learning Turkish at 16, just like me) but the cover bothers me. And this is going to make me sound like a total nerd, but so what. I'm 99% sure the mosque on the cover is the Suleimaniye Mosque which is in Istanbul. This book is set in Ankara. Maybe it's supposed to be the Kocatepe Mosque, but it's looks an awful lot like the Suleimaniye to my eyes. I know they look similar, but that bothers me, a lot. ...more
Peter T. Tomaras
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had to post this review at as well. Very disappointing, I often came close to stopping, but wanted to finish so I could file a negative review. This is fiction, I understand. However, the story is totally implausible. It's a "wondergirl" adventure set in Turkey, and it does a huge disservice to both Turkey (to which I am not a friend, incidentally) and the US Foreign Service, including its sideshow, the CIA. My own novels (Innkeeper, Resistors) feature the US Foreign Service, and im ...more
Kim Bakos
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This book booms to a start, and doesn't stop until the very last page!
It was such a great story with characters that I really liked. I will admit that with all the double and triple crossing that was going on, it was hard to keep track of who was a good guy and who wasn't, but that is also what kept me reading into the wee hours of the night.
I struggled to figure out exactly where they were, how far apart places were, etc... since the names of the towns in Syria and Turkey are meaningless to me.
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
I'm a sucker for a thriller that involves a man on the run. Whether it's The 39 Steps or The pelican Brief, I love a breathless chase. So I enjoyed Liar's Candle, which is about a young woman who survives the bombing of the US Embassy in Turkey, only to realise that her life is in danger. Reading it is really more like watching a movie than reading a book. It's as fast paced (and equally silly) as The Bourne Supremacy. Ultimately this is what trips it up: too many threads, too many dramatic esca ...more
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Well I have to read this one don't I? The main character's name is Penny. :-) ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a very intriguing book. It keeps you on your toes and takes some unexpected turns throughout the novel. Penny, who is the main character seeks to always do the right thing but unexpected obstacles jump in her way throughout the novel. The book shows a glimpse of life in Turkey which is interesting to learn.
John Bastin
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting story exposing what lengths our government can go to, in the alleged quest for peace. People lie, people die, and it all doesn't necessarily come out all right in the end.

An entertaining read.
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
A fast paced quick read.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found myself googling to see if this was a true story – for a mystery/thriller, that's a good sign! ...more
Jay Dwight
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this fast paced thriller.

A game of cat and mouse, as Penny Kessler, an intern at the US Embassy in Ankara, is on the run and doesn't know who to trust.

The story opens with Penny in hospital, one of the few survivors after a bomb exploded at the Embassy's 4th of July function. Her bosses are willing her to remember crucial pieces of information, but if she remembers, she becomes a target.

Suspense all the way with one.
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Don’t you understand what’s at stake here?’

Terrorist attacks are all too frequent in the world in which we live, and increasingly in the fictional world as well. Imagine: Fourth of July celebrations at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, where a bomb is detonated killing hundreds of people. The day after, Penny Kessler, a young intern who was working at the Embassy, wakes up in hospital. Penny has few immediate memories of the incident, but senior US staff believe she’s a key witness.

There’s a ph
Max Entropy
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of political thrillers, Turks, and those with connections to Turkey
When I learned of this book late last year, it struck a chord. It was the first recent thriller I had encountered set in Turkey, as is part if the one I published about six months later. And so, to compare notes, I gave it a read and found that our books are different animals with kindred spirits. Here is my book report.

The title of August Thomas’s debut international thriller comes from a Turkish proverb, “A liar’s candle burns only until dark,” an appropriate motto for the full helping of dupl
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Aussie Readers: This topic has been closed to new comments. S&S Australia ARC Giveaway, Liar's Candle - closes 13th May! 12 49 May 23, 2018 03:34AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Safe Houses
  • Did You Miss Me? (Romantic Suspense, #14; Baltimore, #3)
  • The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again
  • The Counterfeit Agent (John Wells, #8)
  • The Night of the Iguana
  • All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness
  • Slough House (Slough House, #7)
  • The Day I Lost You
  • Torn   (Randall Shane, #3)
  • The Follower
  • Missing
  • No Mercy (Ellery Hathaway, #2)
  • Taking Eve (Eve Duncan, #16)
  • The Scandal
  • Stolen Time
  • In the Dark (Jonathan Stride #4)
  • The Second-Last Woman in England
  • Night Heron (Philip Mangan #1)
See similar books…
My writing:
Real geopolitics. Imaginary spies.

I once started a protest in Istanbul with a spoon and can of Libby's Pumpkin Puree. (It was an accident!)

Slightly more:
From New England. Lived in Italy, Scotland, Turkey (once as a Fulbright Scholar). Traveled 800 miles Vienna-->Plovdiv in the footsteps of the splendid Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. I was the little girl in
Beeing: Life, Motherhood,

Related Articles

Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
150 likes · 58 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »