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The Liar's Girl

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Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

Dublin's notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims 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 the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far 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.

330 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2018

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About the author

Catherine Ryan Howard

23 books2,800 followers
Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Her debut novel, DISTRESS SIGNALS, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. THE LIAR'S GIRL (2018) was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. REWIND (2019) was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year and is currently being developed for screen by Clerkenwell Films (Misfits, Lovesick, The End of the F***ing World.) THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 Irish Times bestseller and a no. 1 Kindle bestseller (UK) and was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Her latest novel, 56 DAYS, was published in August 2021. It is a thriller set in lockdown that Catherine wrote while she was in lockdown.

Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida. She still wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,666 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
September 22, 2022
I feel really lucky that I was able to buddy read this book with my sister Irina; not everyone shares similar tastes with family members, but thankfully we both love to read the same novels! I don't think we expected to fly through this one so quickly, but neither one of us could put it down. The Liar's Girl is truly a compulsive, addicting read, the type where it doesn't even matter if the big twist(s) fool you because the journey to the end was so much more important than the conclusion of the story. That's not to say I didn't appreciate how everything wrapped up, but I found myself grateful that the author was more concerned with engaging the reader throughout than throwing a "Hail Mary" by trying to obtain one whopper of a shocking twist.

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. 

I should be a bit tight-lipped on the plot here, but I really enjoyed how this one was structured. The flipping between past and present POV of Alison was brilliant; while I didn't find her wholly likable I did connect with her early on and appreciated her growth and maturation from beginning to end. Almost the entire story is from her POV, with a few minor exceptions and THAT'S ALL I WILL SAY ABOUT THAT. Both tenses were equally interesting and as I moved on I found myself flipping the pages faster and faster until I realized I had read the final 50% in one bout on the bike at the gym. Sorry Irina!

"Gardai are appealing for witnesses after the body of St. John's College student Jennifer Madden, nineteen, was recovered from the Grand Canal early yesterday morning."

If you enjoyed the author's first novel, Distress Signals, then you will most certainly enjoy this one as well.  contains the same style of writing where, in the beginning, there is a good bit of slow building suspense and characterization that morphs into exciting action and exposed secrets! If you're nosey like me you'll appreciate this. Hooray for exposed secrets! Highly recommended to those who like maybe a less twisty thriller and highly favor the procedural and characterization approach. I'm 2 for 2 with Howard's books and am waiting anxiously for her next book to be written.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley. 
Profile Image for Deanna .
664 reviews12.4k followers
May 15, 2018
“The Liar’s Girl” was my introduction to Catherine Ryan Howard. The description of this novel really had me intrigued.

Alison Smith was a student at St. John's when she met Will Hurley. They had been dating for nine months and she was very happy with him....until the day he was arrested for killing four women. One of them was Alison’s best friend, Liz.

Alison left Ireland right after Will was arrested, and hasn’t been back since. She put that time in her life out of her mind. So she’s completely surprised when she opens her door to see two detectives from Dublin standing on her doorstep. Alison recognizes one of the detectives right away. She quickly realizes that there is only one reason Irish detectives would be at her door.


She asks them why they are there. They ask her if she’s seen the news and she tells them she hasn’t…

We found a body,” Shaw said. “in the Grand Canal. Nineteen-year-old girl. A student at St. John’s.”

Apparently, Will says he has information that could help them …but he won’t tell them what the information is. Alison is baffled. Why would he say he has information but not tell the police?

“What I meant was,” Malone said. “He wouldn’t tell us”

It takes her a moment to figure out what they are asking. Will has told them that he will only talk to Alison. At first, Alison refuses...

“We’ll get you in and out before anyone even knows you’re in Dublin.”

Alison wakes the next morning...back in Dublin. She can’t believe that she agreed to this. But she tells herself it’s the right thing to do. She just needs to sit down and listen to what Will says. Before she knows it she’s standing outside the door to the room Will is inside. All of a sudden she wants to hit the brakes. But the door opens, there he is….


“The man sitting in front of me was Will, but he wasn’t the boy I’d loved. No. That boy had died the day Will confessed, if he’d ever existed. The problem was that the man sitting in front of me looked and acted and sounded just like that boy’s ghost.”

Alison doesn’t really understand what Will wants from her, what he wants to tell her. But what he says next is something that Alison was definitely NOT expecting.....

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the short chapters and I thought everything unfolded at a good pace. The majority of the story is told from Alison’s perspective. We learn about her complicated friendship with Liz and her relationship with Will. Although the story deals with violent crimes, I appreciated that the author kept things from being overly descriptive. It flowed well, and I had no problems following along. The last few chapters were especially intense. I was shocked but I loved how everything played out.

Overall, I found this to be an engaging and interesting read that held my attention from start to finish. Though this was my first read from Catherine Ryan Howard, it definitely won’t be my last.

Many thanks to Blackstone Publishing for providing an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Kendall.
638 reviews640 followers
September 17, 2017
I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to read this advanced arc by Catherine Ryan Howard! I heard raving reviews about Catherine's debut novel... so I was excited to be able to experience this author.

The Liar's girl is a slow building psychological thriller that grabs you by your feet and keeps you running ;). The premise of this novel is what any mystery/suspense fan LIVES for. Allison is a freshman at Dublin University where she meets her handsome and charming boyfriend Will Hurley. Will confesses to killing 5 women and is known as the "Canal Killer". One of the 5 women that is killed is Allison and Will's friend Liz . How could Allison's charming and sweet lover kill her best friend?! Allison's world is turned literally upside down.... she escapes her past as her boyfriend Will is imprisoned for life in the city's Central Psychiatric Hospital.

Of course... our past always comes back to haunt us. 10 years later... a woman's body is found in the Canal River.... but Will is in a psychiatric hospital. The Garda ask for Will's help but Will has a secret to confess.......
Will is longing to only see Allison and will only tell his secret to her. Will Allison be willing to come face to face with her awful past again and dig up those awful memories? Maybe there truly IS a darker secret of what happened to Liz and Will all those years ago?......

Overall, I would give this a 3 star. This was a little slow for my taste for a psychological thriller. I loved how Catherine had such a unique and different storyline then we are used to seeing in typical psychological thrillers. I loved the multiple perspective approach in this novel from Allison's past to present.

The only issues I have with this novel are that it just didn't have the twists/turns that I long for as a reader. I was a little bummed out when the premise of the secret/killer was revealed. I was a little confused as to how it actually fit into the storyline? I was expecting everything to come connecting together and to me it just didn't fit like a puzzle. Also, the ending I felt just came to an abrupt stop? Yes, there was some tiny twists towards the end but not enough for me to be extremely impressed.

With that being said, I definitely will be checking out more from Catherine Howard. Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for giving me the opportunity to explore this wonderful author and advanced arc.
Expected publication date is 2/27/18 :).
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,140 reviews1,878 followers
January 27, 2021
3.5 ⭐️

I discovered this author’s work in 2019, when I read and loved “Rewind”.

And, in 2020, I enjoyed “The Nothing Man” even more! ❤️

So, I wanted to read her earlier work, “Distress Signals” and this.

Although “The Liar’s Girl” ended up being my least favorite, it’s still better than many other books that you can pick up, but a couple of things pushed my rating down.

Chapters titled, “Alison, then” explore how a young woman in love for the first time, falls for fellow student, Will Hurley, later sentenced to life imprisonment, for murdering her childhood best friend, Liz and four other college undergrad students at St. John’s College.

He is dubbed “The Canal Killer” as his method of killing is to drown the women, in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal, in Dublin.

Chapters titled, “Alison, now” focus on a CopyCat killer, ten years later. Will says he has information but he will only share what he knows with Alison.

But, they haven’t spoken since he confessed to the killings.

The Garda arrive to ask Alison if she will speak with him, and she reluctantly agrees-I expected this conversation to feel creepy or darker.

But, what she hears, makes her wonder if his confession may have been coerced.
Could he be innocent?

Alison teams up with one of the Detectives assigned to the case, and he shares more than he should, helping her to piece together things that the Detectives missed...or chose to ignore.

But, what was lacking for me was plausible, alternative suspects.
We had the occasional, unidentified POV from the CopyCat killer, but WHO could he be?

We are told, in the end, but we were not misdirected to many characters, that he could possibly be, so we as a reader did not have a shot at solving the case.

The final explanation probably bumped this up the half star, because this author definitely knows how to circle back, and tie up loose ends without EVER going OTT.

And, it is always clever.

Learning what was FACT and what was FICTION was satisfying.

DeAnn and I have now completed the back list for this author, and we had fun trying to decide if Will was guilty or innocent during our buddy read! Be sure to watch for her review!

Now we await whatever Catherine Ryan Howard writes next!
I hope we don’t have long to wait.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
August 23, 2018
This book… exists. And that is fucking it.

Okay. Here’s the blurb of this book:
When a young woman's body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit convicted serial killer Will Hurley to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess-but there's only one person he's prepared to confess it to. Reluctantly, ex-girlfriend Alison returns to the city she hasn't set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.

Sounds psychological, right? Sounds vaguely like Silence of the Lambs, hm? Sounds like an interesting character exploration… right? Well… no. This is completely plot driven with barely any character interest. And unfortunately, the plot is just not twisty enough to hold up lacking character developments.

I really… wow, that, sums up half my thoughts on this mediocre ass book. Okay.

Our lead protagonist is by no means a bad character. I think in a book with some fucking awesome twists, I would’ve considered her a fairly solid narrator - she’s realistically traumatized but not overusing alcohol constantly in that tropey unreliable-narrator way.

I also think that the handling of our lead’s trauma, especially surrounding romance, is pretty half-assed. There’s a very thrown-in romance. A half-assed mention of the lead protagonist’s parent trouble is quickly forgotten and ignored so the lead can forgive her mom in the last chapter.

Okay, listen, here’s the big problem: this book has zero twists. There is technically a red herring. I guess. And technically one of those last-chapter fakeout twists we all know is coming, although this one isn’t… at all impactful to the actual story? But even when we discover who the real killer is, the character is so far removed from the narrative – not even being a side character in the book – that the main reveal just doesn’t feel shocking.

The only thing I actually enjoyed about this whole book was one singular scene towards the end that I found incredibly thrilling. It lasts three pages. Aside from that, I found this book bland and disappointing after such a great concept.

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Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,735 reviews14.1k followers
March 16, 2018
Allison hadn't been back to Dublin ever since her best friend was killed and her boyfriend convicted of her murder and others. The press called him the canal killer, and all the girls had been students at St. Johns, where Allison and Will were young students in love. Now though, girls from the school are one again being murdered and the Garda contacts Allison, bringing her back to Dublin, asking her to talk to Will, and see if he has any information to share.

A slow moving storyline, but that was not what kept me from rating this higher. I just never really felt the connection between Will and Allison, neither in the back story nor the present. The emotion in both timelines for me was lacking, which kept me from becoming invested in the story. Something just seemed off, don't know how else to explain my reaction. So for me, this was just okay.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,123 reviews30.2k followers
February 27, 2018
4 clever, intriguing stars to The Liar’s Girl! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Liar’s Girl has an original premise. Will Hurley is a serial killer who has been placed in a psychiatric hospital instead of a prison. One of his victims was his college girlfriend’s best friend. A copycat murder occurs ten years later, while he’s in the hospital, and Will will only tell what he knows to that ex.

I found The Liar’s Girl addictive, engaging, and slowly building. No huge twists were thrown at me, but it managed to hold my interest throughout. The book is more centered around its characters than a quickly moving plot, and I liked that. Allison is a character to love, and Will is as creepy as they come.

Cutting myself off here because I don’t want to spill any beans. If you like your suspense with well-developed characters and a slower burn, The Liar’s Girl is just that.

Thank you to Catherine Ryan Howard, Blackstone Publishing, and Edelweiss for the complimentary copy.
Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,522 reviews157 followers
February 12, 2018
EXCELLENT! Truly loved it!
"Liar's Girl" is an absolutely fantastic read that I found compelling, intriguing and suspenseful. There's nothing to not like about in this book, I found everything perfect from start to finish written by an incredibly talented author whose future books I will most certainly be reading. So many books are flooding the market at the moment with over the top marketing hype but this one deserves any it receives, I feel it's by far one of the best psychological thrillers to hit the shelves lately.
Freshman Alison Smith soon falls for fellow student Will Hurley after enrolling at St Johns College, Dublin. Her world was blooming until her best friend Liz falls victim to the 'Canal Killer', who turns out to be none other than her boyfriend Will. Fleeing to the Netherlands, Alison doesn't look back and spends the next ten years trying to forget Will and the murders. However, when a young woman's body is fished out of the canal with similarities to the original canal murders, detectives believe Will can help solve the latest killing. Will though will only talk to one person - Alison, can she return from the Netherlands to speak to him after all these years and what information could he reveal??
I particularly enjoyed the way the book was set out - in alternating 'Alison then' and 'Alison now' chapters - interspersed with chapters from the killer's perspective and finally coming together at the end in a twist I really didn't anticipate. There were also a couple of gasp out loud moments and I loved the idea of following the killer 'now' as he/she went on their killing spree.
I thought Alison was a well developed character and could perfectly understand how she must have felt at such a young age discovering her boyfriend was responsible for the deaths of several women and just wanting to escape the media and the emotions she was feeling. So to be back in Dublin and right bang smack in the middle of the murders again, must have been very emotional for her.
I can't express how much I enjoyed reading this book, Catherine Ryan Howard must surely be onto a winner with "Liar's Girl" - its top notch writing and perfectly paced plot line is everything needed for a successful and entertaining thriller.

Thank you to Readers First for my copy of the book.

5 plus stars!
Profile Image for GirlWithThePinkSkiMask.
396 reviews1,336 followers
April 6, 2022
Follow me on IG as I work my way through my April TBR list

Writing: 3.5/5 | Plot: 3/5 | Ending: 2/5


Ten years ago, Alison's college boyfriend, Will, was arrested for the murder of five girls and subsequently dubbed the Canal Killer. When new girls start to die in a similar fashion, Will realizes this might be the chance to prove his innocence. But to do so, Will needs Ali to investigate on his behalf while he's chillin at the psych ward.


I have some bad news guys. It seems I have been infected with plothole-itis by my friend Chantel which causes me to be relentlessly hyper aware of any flaws, inaccuracies, or general wtf-isms within a book. So for that reason, we are here, with a 3 star rating, when I think pre-plotholeitis I would've tossed this 4 just for funsies.

I loved, loved, LOVED The Nothing Man and made it about 50% through 56 Days before I discovered NetGalley and got distracted. I enjoy the author's writing and I think she's very talented (even though she can be a little TOO detailed sometimes) but the plot and ending of this book just was not hittin. Here's why:

- Why TF did Will call Ali, an ex he hasn't seen/heard from in a decade, to see wassup on the outside when he has a whole ass LAWYER. This seems like a job for a lawyer, not a virtual stranger you dated for a hot minute.

- Mahone would've been canned from the Garda with the mf swiftness for his inappropriate behaviour, chiefly: giving way too much info to a civilian, falling in love with her and letting her squat at his home, using public wi-fi from starbucks (or starbs if you're nasty) to conduct official police business. Good. bye.

- During the final showdown, why did Ali text Mahone instead of calling the police??? GURL. PRIORITIES.

- The ending was very spoon-fed to the reader. It was literally like a Q&A covering all the questions the reader might be asking. Literally just 3 pages of straight dialogue explaining everything. Bleh.


- Idk if we were supposed to sympathize with Will for being a certified dumb ass and chucking Liz in the river hoping her death would be attributed with the Canal Killer, but I certainly could NOT. Are you actually dead ass with this? Liz was still alive and Will thought hmmm instead of finding someone to help me or just leaving her there to be found (still horrible, but better?) let's callously throw her body in the river and give her a painful death. Cool, cool, cool. And then when he was like "ya, I deserve to be locked up because I did murder someone" but changed his tune quickly and was like "but for how long bc this place is kinda stanky and I promise not to do it again" I wanted to roll my eyes so hard they might fall out of my head. The author should've kept this whole twisty twist to herself.


Pros: Good writing, the story flowed nicely

Cons: Several things just didn't add up, the final twist was garbagio, the writing got a little too closed-captioned at some points
January 20, 2018
3.5 stars

This was an intriguing and entertaining psychological thriller with a suspenseful storyline and interesting characters. I enjoyed the layout of the novel which was told in Past and Present timelines. The pacing of the story was on the slow side and some parts started to drag, but overall, it kept me intrigued all the way through.

A big thank you to NetGalley, Blackstone Publishing and Catherine Ryan Howard for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews270 followers
August 13, 2021
Guinness topped with champagne. A crime against both substances. 

The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

My review:

I was up mostly all night reading this book last night.

It really has everything I look for in a good and well written thriller.

And I so wish GR had 1-10 stars. Because 1-5 ratings are so vague. I mean..they could mean anything. In this book's case it means.......

I could not tear my eyes away.

Plot was all consuming.

Characters fully developed and interesting.


But it also means there were some things I found so utterly unrealistic I could not find my way to a four.

The plot is fascinating. Allison was in college when she met Will. She quickly fell in love with him. They spent all their time together.

Until the police came for him.

They came for him because, you see, Will is a serial killer. The evil "Canal killer", the most famous of all serial killers in Ireland. While Allison was falling in love Will was just pretending to love her back as he killed five girls including Allie's best friend Liz.

But now, ten years later, there is a copy cat. He has struck twice and will strike again. And Will says he has information. But he wont tell the cops what it is. He will speak to Allie only.

I LOVED the plot. It was sinister and wrapped in darkness with some really creepy moments. I must give a shout out to the first scene which is one of the eeriest and creepiest I can remember reading in recent memory.

Liar's Girl is long, it is complex but it is so INTERESTING because one wants to know. Is Will really Guilty? Does he know ANYTHING? Is this just a copy cat or maybe Will had a partner back then who is at work now continuing the deadly killing spree? I just COULDN'T put this down.

But....and this is a big negative...the first half is so much better than the second. I really found the length of time Allie spends with the cops unrealistic as the fact that she single handedly solves everything herself. Also..the cops give her so much information its absurd. It does bring the book down a bit. I feel bad saying that because this book is so GOOD but the unrealistic actions by Allie and the police always had me knowing I was reading a book and I did not get swept in as much as I'f have liked because there was no rhyme or reason to anything that Allie and the police did.


The ending was a shocker for me and GREAT....I'd kinda like to see a part two of this. I was not expecting that ending but it validated me in a way because I hated Will and I was constantly asking myself why. Even when it was thought he might be innocent, I really disliked him. So....five stars for the ending!

I'd recommend this. I just wish it had not gone into "girl solves crime by herself because it was not realistic at all. But the book gave me a sleepless night of fun reading!
Profile Image for Sarah Joint.
445 reviews984 followers
May 31, 2018
This book begins slowly, but stick around. Slow-building but gripping with a little bit of a creep factor, it leaves you guessing the entire read. I was expecting to be surprised by the ending, but had some theories... I was wrong. I love being wrong! The story shifts from the past to the present... the present Alison is a woman who has tried her best to leave her past behind. She moved to the Netherlands from Ireland ten years ago, desperate to escape public scrutiny and judgement. She never really did anything wrong, but when you're the ex of a serial killer... people talk. Ten years ago, she was just a young woman in love with a charming, handsome guy. She had no idea she was in love with a murderer.

Ten years later, it's beginning again. Young ladies are being stalked and drowned in the Grand Canal. Yet the Canal Killer, Will Hurley, has been locked up for the last decade. The similarities to the crimes cannot be ignored, and it isn't long before the authorities go to speak to Will. Clearly he hasn't been escaping during the night and committing these terrible crimes himself, but does he know who is? A former accomplice, an admirer? He refuses to speak to them, demanding to see his old love. Ali is the only one he'll talk to, and he insists he has a lot to say.

Ali reluctantly agrees to go back, but is understandably not thrilled at the prospect of dredging up the past and seeing her first (and only) love again. Does Will have information that can save some of the girls, or is he just toying with her and using the only card he has left?

I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley and Blackstone Publishing, thank you! My review is honest and unbiased.
December 30, 2017
I give this book 4 out of 5 Thrilling Stars! I really liked this book and thought it had major potential to be a 5 star in my opinion. The issue I had with this book it felt like it was really slow in the beginning and felt like it took forever to get to the thrilling stuff and meat of the story.

Once we get through atleast the first 60 pages or so it was quite suspenseful and thrilling. The plot was great and the characterisation was good as well. I also liked how unique the twists and turns of this story was.

There was a lot of page turning moments and know that this story will capture a large amount of readers’ attention! Man did some of it make me cringe!

I just think with the beginning it set me off a tad but definitely a book that I would recommend to people who love thrillers because it ended up being really good and surprising. Overall, I liked this story and am glad I read it because it had me keeping the lights on and had me cringing at some points with the intensity!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,338 reviews696 followers
April 12, 2021
“The Liar’s Girl” by Catherine Ryan Howard is a 2019 Edgar’s award nominee and a freebee on audible plus (at least for me). Alana Kerr Collins, Alan Smyth, and Gary Furlong narrate this suspenseful thriller. I was absorbed in the story for the full 10 ½ hours.

Alison Smith is pulled back to her hellish college freshman year when her ex-boyfriend, who was convicted of being a serial killer in Ireland, tells the police that he has information on recent homicides that are exactly like the murders he was convicted of. Will Hurley was sentenced to life when he was 19 for the murders of five women, all occurring on the Grand Canal. Ten years later, the exact same murders are occurring now.

Alison has worked diligently to forget her freshman year and start over in the Netherlands. When a policeman comes to her, saying he thinks Will is innocent and that his confession was tricked out of him, Alison returns to Ireland and begins sleuthing along-side the police.

The story is told from Alison’s perspective, both now and 10 year’s earlier. Those chapters are cut in with chapters from the serial killer. Listening to the story, one gets the creepy voice dude, along with Alison’s frightened and probing voice. I like audio suspense novels when their nail voices, especially the voice of the perpetrator. The narrators added to the story.
Profile Image for Pauline.
746 reviews
December 21, 2017
The Liars's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard was an excellent psychological thriller. Alison Smith is a student at St. John's College in Dublin. Her best friend and fellow student is found dead in the Grand Canal and Alison's boyfriend has confessed to the crime. Ten years later another girl is found in similar circumstances and now the police are doubting that they have the right man. I really enjoyed this book and the characters were believable. I will certainly be looking to read more from this author. I would like to thank NetGalley and Atlantic Books for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,211 reviews133 followers
August 6, 2021

Overall, a pretty good mystery/thriller. A young woman haunted by the past and what may or may not have been the truth of a tragedy and string of killings.

I’ve been reading new to me authors and Catherine Ryan Howard has been on my to read list for a few years now.

While it was a page turner, it lost a star for an ending that wasn’t the surprise I’d hoped it would be. Quite frankly, I’d been waiting for that twist for the whole book.

My other disappointment was characterization— the lead character— our slightly stilted heroine— was pretty good. Unfortunately she’s surrounded by some “stock” characters who deserved a bit more richness— had they been less generic, I think the reading would have been both fast paced and more unsettling. Instead our heroine flings off her introverted ways and turns girl detective.

I guess this is a long winded way of saying, “It was good but I wished it had been great!” However, I’ll try another Howard novel because she sure can set up a story that keeps her readers turning pages!!
Profile Image for Kaila.
67 reviews48 followers
February 27, 2018
The truth was, I'd never stopped loving Will. I'd just accepted that the Will I'd known and loved was dead. Ten years later, I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that he'd never really existed in the first place.

Let me start out by saying, this is not a fast-paced, twisty thriller - but it doesn't masquerade as one. Instead, we're treated to a story about love, loss, and moving on, along with a side order of slow burning suspense and intrigue. I loved it.

The blurb was what drew me in. I was fascinated by the concept of a young Ali being forced to reconcile what is supposed to be the purity of her first love with the knowledge of the evil he's responsible for. How traumatic would it be to process that, bury it, and then have it all surface again ten years later, when she's finally found a new normal?

The split timeline narrative thrilled me. It's a perfect fit for this story since it quickly becomes clear that Ali never truly moved on, too wracked by shame and guilt. Part of her has always been trapped in the past, and as much as Will's summoning terrifies her, it also opens the door for the closure she'd stopped believing was possible. Catherine Ryan Howard is so wonderfully deliberate with her diction, and she paints a vivid picture of Alison, then: a bright-eyed, untouchable college freshman with the world as her canvas, contrasted against Alison, now: hesitant to trust or forgive anyone, including herself.

I was equally enamored by both storylines and the relationships within them. It's so easy to feel the butterflies of young love as we unpack the beginning of Ali and Will's relationship, and I was fascinated by their reunion in the present and how much weight it holds for both of them. But just as intriguing is Ali's nuanced friendship with Liz in the past and budding trust in Malone in the present. The characters and their dynamics are easily the strongest part of the novel, and Howard excels in breathing life into them.

My only real complaint has to do with the execution of the ending. Too much felt jammed into the last fifth of the book, especially after the unhurried, character-focused nature of the beginning. When the dust settles, the pacing tries to again even out, but to me, it falls short and the characters' conclusions seem rushed and inconsequential next to the attempted big bang of a climax.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Liar's Girl and Ali's search for the truth. Beautifully descriptive prose and realistic characters color the story the whole way through, and even with my opinions of the ending, I walked away satisfied and hungry for more of Howard's writing. 4 stars!

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of The Liar's Girl in exchange for an honest review.

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March 10, 2018
This was one of those stories that had quite a very slow burn and a work up to a somewhat puzzling conclusion.

Alison Smith and her best friend, Liz, have been accepted into the college of St John's in Dublin, Ireland. The girls are anxious to begin their college life and start to participate in all things college oriented, classes, drinking, partying, and being carefree nineteen year old girls. Alison even meets a young man she is drawn to, Will Hurley. He is cute and charming and Alison becomes his girlfriend thinking that love has found her at St John's. However, there has been a series of murders in the area of the canal that runs through the campus and now the area seems to be plagued by a serial killer. When the killer murders her friend Liz, evidence points to Will and though Alison can't believe it, she does become convinced that Will probably is the serial killer, especially after Will confesses to the crimes. To escape from all the hurt and pain, Alison moves to Holland and never returns to her native country.

Ten years later the killings start up again and Alison becomes involved in the search for what they believe to be a copy cat killer. However, when Alison is forced to see Will in the facility he has been held in for ten years, all her doubts about his guilt come back. She and the police try to piece together the clues, find the killer, and determine Will's guilt.

The story is extremely slow moving. The parts between Alison ten years prior and now are somewhat foggy and abrupt and there were times when one was not sure at which stage we were at, the before or the here and now of Alsion's life. The ending also seemed off, as if the author just decided to stop writing and bring this story to a close. It just seemed to lack that element which make thrillers, at times, such a compulsive type of read.

So, in essence I was somewhat disappointed in this story but I do want to thank the author, the publisher, and edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy of this book for my unbiased review.
March 16, 2021
The Liar's Girl is my third Catherine Ryan Howard book and once again she has proven herself to be a talented storyteller. Of the 3, I would say this is my second favorite with The Nothing Man remaining in the top spot.

This one is told in a dual timeline narrative 10 years apart with Allison being the primary narrator. Her serial killer ex-boyfriend, Will, tells her he is innocent and he has asked her to help him prove it.
If you are someone who likes a lot of crazy twists and turns, this will not be the book for you. That being said, the story moves along at a steady pace and I was immediately engaged in the plot. One thing I love about this author's writing is that her stories and their conclusions are always plausible and never seem excessive or extreme for the sake of shock value. 4 stars.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.4k followers
December 9, 2020
this was everything that i love about mystery/thrillers! this had such a captivating and engaging plot that made me second guess what i thought about everything, and bonus points for a conclusion i didnt predict! my only critique was that i wanted more - i feel like there could have been so much exploration into the past/backstory. and i didnt get nearly enough of will as i would have liked. but very exciting book nonetheless!

4 stars
Profile Image for Diana • Book of Secrets.
780 reviews571 followers
June 30, 2018
4.25 Stars → Poor Alison Smith. She couldn’t wait to move to Dublin and attend St. John’s College with her best friend Liz, but her happiness was short-lived. Will, the charming boy Alison fell in love with freshman year, turned out to be a serial killer, and worse yet was that his last victim was Liz. A decade passes with Will locked up and Alison trying to forget that terrible time, when a copycat killer strikes. Will has new information to share that may help police, but the only person he’s willing to talk to is Alison.

THE LIAR’S GIRL is an absorbing slow-burn novel of suspense. I was easily wrapped up in the lives of the characters. The author has an engaging and descriptive writing style that makes the reader feel like part of the story. The mystery was constructed well and kept me guessing. I loved that final disturbing twist which brought everything together.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Alana Kerr Collins, with smaller parts by Alan Smyth and Gary Furlong. Ms. Collins’ performance of Alison was fitting with her character – not overly dramatic, yet emotional and expressive when the situation called for it. Alan Smyth narrated Catherine Ryan Howard’s previous book DISTRESS SIGNALS, and I loved, loved, loved his performance. Though his part was smaller in this book, he was just as wonderful. I’d listen to anything he narrates.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Selena.
488 reviews309 followers
October 19, 2017
I received a free electronic copy of The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

An amazing story about one very small lie and how it changed her life and affected the people in her life. Great characters with tons of emotion and lots of twists. This story hooked me in and kept me in it's grasp till the very end. A thrilling ride!
February 10, 2018
The Liar’s Girl is the second mystery thriller from Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard and is a thoroughly engrossing and multilayered work of crime fiction. Intelligently recounted, a slow-burning suspense runs throughout the novel, builds to a satisfying resolution and features a protagonist who is portrayed with insight and sensitivity. In a riveting and well-rounded examination of facing one’s past this story will appeal to crime fiction readers who value the realistic procedural aspects of a story yet demand an appreciation of the psychological aspects which motivate the events.

When Alison Smith opens her front door in Breda to be greeted by two Gardaí detectives she is taken straight back to a past she fled from and has refused to confront. However, all that is about to change when the detectives appeal for Alison’s assistance and unleash a hornet’s nest of conflicting emotions and self-recrimination. As a nineteen-year-old from Cork, Alison Smith achieved her dream of winning a place at elite St. John’s College in Dublin but before the academic year was through her life as she knew it came to an abrupt and very unwelcome end. Caught in the throes of first love with student boyfriend, Will Hurley, when a serial killer begins preying on the female students by inflicting a blow to the head and disposing of their bodies in the Grand Canal, the atmosphere takes a darker turn and the predator is dubbed the Canal Killer. With four students having already fallen victim, when Alison’s best friend, Liz, becomes the fifth and boyfriend Will is subsequently arrested and then confesses, Alison’s world implodes. Alison escaped to the Netherlands and has remained there ever since, working and carving out a new life for herself and sentenced to life imprisonment, Will is resident within Dublin’s Central Psychiatric Hospital. When a series of copycat murders occur, Will is reinterviewed by the Gardaí and claims that he has can be of assistance but declares himself willing to talk to one person alone, his girlfriend of nine months at the time of the first murders, Alison. As a reluctant Alison meets with Will he tells her his confession was a mistake and beseeches her for help in proving his innocence. As Alison readies herself to turn her back on Will, unwilling to be held hostage by his demands, she is shocked when the Gardaí tell her think there might be some truth to his claims..

Narrated through a shifting timeline in the first-person with “Alison, then” as a student in 2007 and “Alison, now” confronting the events a decade after, Ryan Howard is able to expose how the past has shaped Alison and moulded her as a person. The 2007 timeline sees Alison discovering a life away from her parents, first love with Will and portrays an increasingly toxic friendship with capricious friend from home, Liz. “Alison, now” narrates her reluctant return to Dublin and the visits to Will are told with sincerity, capturing her honest concerns about what Will will think of her, and more importantly, what she wants him to think of her! Interspersed throughout are untitled chapters which reveal the thoughts of an individual with involvement in both the 2007 murders and the current spate, but cleverly Ryan Howard leaves her readers dangling as to Will’s possible involvement as accomplice or co-conspirator. The character of Will is heard briefly at both the start and the end of the novel and what readers learn of him is largely seen through the eyes of Alison, making him a shadowy figure with the question of why he has waited a decade to assert his claims pressing and leaving his reliability in considerable doubt.

Opening strongly, Ryan Howard skilfully doles out bit part glimpses into Alison’s first year at St. John’s alongside the current investigation, serving to heighten tension as the reader finds themselves drawn into Alison’s turmoil and a race to discover if Will played a part in the murders. As the unsatisfactorily resolved aspects of the original investigation are exposed in tandem with Detective Malone, Alison increasingly starts to concur that Will might have been more a victim of confirmation bias and the wish for a swift resolution. As Alison looks back on what lead to suspicion falling on Will and her involvement in it she has to confront her guilt about the feeling of having let Liz down. Realising that in order to restart her own life she must achieve closure and confront the reasons that caused her to leave Dublin, Alison proves herself a feisty and tenacious investigator, determined as much for Will and Liz as for herself and her parents, to put an end to the past. Whilst I did not warm to lead character Alison on outset my empathy grew the more I discovered of her story and was able to witness the effects it had had on her own life, making it patently obvious that Will’s incarceration and Liz’s murder had also played a part in many of her own life decisions, from her failure to return home to her standoffishness with potential partners and friends. Catherine Ryan Howard manages to demonstrate that the victims of the Canal Killer are not limited to the murdered women alone.

Detective Sergeant Jerry Shaw’s taciturn manner extricated Will’s confession and is unwilling to consider his innocence but his more judicious sidekick Detective Michael Malone has his own working theories and niggling concerns about some aspects of the 2007 investigation. As with Distress Signals, the author uses the differences between the UK and Irish legal system to highlight the more questionable aspects of Will’s prosecution, from being encouraged to plead guilty and forgo a trial to not having his solicitor present during police questioning. Despite not feeling particularly invested in Will’s fate and finding him rather sterile it is hard to feel anything but sympathy for his treatment and concede that his naivety and youth was taken advantage of.

I suspect that for lovers of psychological fiction the twists and turns will not be jaw-droppingly showy enough for many readers, largely because they are so readily believable and for me this is what makes the story work so well. With so many psychological thrillers increasingly giving in to peppering the plot with outlandish and ludicrously unlikely twists, that Ryan Howard has stayed in believable territory adds to her credibility. For me the twists were the significant turning points in the current investigation, with substantive discoveries being made and factored in to the situation. I confess to expecting a final twist in the tale, but credit to Catherine Ryan Howard whose admirable sleight of hand keeps her audience guessing until the last. Although there are signs of a future relationship between Garda Malone and Alison forming this aspect remains muted and Ryan Howard resists the temptation of opting for the overly trite happy ending. Well played and highly recommended.

With thanks to Readers First who provided me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for Selene.
933 reviews233 followers
September 25, 2017
3.5 stars

This book was a solid four-star read for me up until the halfway point. I loved the writing style, enjoyed the shifting POVs, and really liked how the flashback scenes were well balanced with the pacing of the present-day scenes. Ali's character was likable and I found myself rooting for her throughout the story, even though she was a bit of a doormat as a teen. But when Ali began morphing into a super sleuth halfway through the book and the idea was suggested by Will that his confinement was based on miscommunication and some powerful coaxing of a confession by the police, my enjoyment of this book diminished a bit.


The ending felt a bit anticlimactic for me.

▣ Overall, I liked this story and look forward to reading more of this author's work.

*NetGalley ARC provided by Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bex (Beckie Bookworm).
1,959 reviews1,247 followers
March 3, 2018
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Release Date-27/2/18

The Liars girl tells the story of Alison Smith who when we catch up with her is living and working abroad after the events that occurred at Dublin's elite St. John's College.
Alison's First love Will Hurley was arrested and incarcerated as the prolific serial killer terrorising the college campus.
His last victim being none other than Alison's best friend Liz.
Causing young Alison to flee in distress and disbelief abroad.
She hasn't set foot over here since.
Fast forward ten years, all has been quiet since will's arrest until a new young girl is found.
Is it a copycat or is the real Canal killer back to continue his spree of ten years previous.
Will now locked up in a hospital claims to have new evidence to help the police.
But he will only speak to Alison.
So this was a fantastic read that I really enjoyed It kept you guessing throughout and had many twists and turns that I never saw coming.
The Liars girl is one of them stories that sucks you in and is impossible to put down until the bitter end.
The book was played out in a now and then perspective giving us a great insight into the events of ten years previous.
This also really helped me to understand and empathise with Alison
We also get to experience the present killer's thoughts this was a really nice touch which I loved.
There was also a brilliant twist at the end that blindsided me so Bravo, really didn't see that one coming.
So to round this up "The Liars Girl" is a totally engrossing tale that I cant recommend enough.
I was provided with an ARC of "The Liars Girl" By Netgalley of which I have reviewed voluntary.
All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Reviewed By Beckie Bookworm.
Profile Image for Aoife - Bookish_Babbling.
297 reviews309 followers
November 17, 2021
I’m always a sucker for dual timelime & multi-PoV to spread out the breadcrumbs and this one pays off…the hints are well placed so we can figure things out but the twists were still well done and I LOVED that the audio has Irish accents although I am going to be annoying and wish that our female MC had had the lovely lilting Cork accent I’m used to – but that is purely personal preference + bias lolz 🤭

The irony of my reading/listening to this while walking the doggo in the dark most evenings was not lost on me and deffo had me checking over my shoulder from time to time 👀

Minor bugbears with the uses of “Dumpster/Trash” instead of “Skip/Rubbish” and I was not remotely interested in the hinted romance between two characters in the “now” timeline means this is 4* for me…but I am deffo checking out this authors other work as she kept me guessing better than other mysteries I’ve read and I am unabashedly patriotic in wanting to support an Irish author 😅

Would and am recommending to friends 👍 🙃

Another book that snuck onto my radar thanks to the wonderful Fran, albeit in a somewhat roundabout way this time...she read another book by this author which piqued my interest but this storyline jumped out at me as want to read first - so it is getting an honourary place on my FFS 🤗
Profile Image for Danielle (The Blonde Likes Books).
591 reviews331 followers
March 17, 2018
College freshman, Alison, can't wait to attend college with her best friend Liz. Shortly after starting school, Alison meets Will, a charming, handsome man and they quickly start dating. Alison is enamored by Will, and hates being apart from him, even though it's caused some strain with Liz. 

When women from the college start turning up dead, the campus is in a frenzy, and the police are on the hunt for the Canal Killer. When Liz ends up being one of the murdered women, Alison's life changes forever...especially when her boyfriend Will is implicated in the murder. Ultimately, Will confesses and Alison is in a state of disbelief. 

Ten years later, Will is locked up in a mental hospital, but women start turning up dead again, in the same way as before. Will tells the police that he has information that can help them, but wont talk to anyone but Alison. Dragged back into her past, Alison can't believe Will when he professes that he was innocent - that he was coerced into confessing. 

Is Will telling the truth? What really happened ten years ago, and why has it started happening again? Alison is determined to find out. 

The premise of The Liar's Girl was instantly appealing to me, and I wasn't let down! The book had my interest from the very first page, and sucked me into the world of Alison and Will. The book was told through alternating time periods, Alison in the present and Alison in the past, so the reader is able to slowly understand how everything happened ten years prior, the dissolution of Alison and Liz's friendship, and the relationship that develops between Alison and Will. This format worked really well for this book, and I loved being able to see what happened in the past and relate it to Alison's present. 

The book was tense and fast paced, which I really enjoyed. As more women turn up missing or dead, the tension increases as the police (and Alison) scramble to figure out whether or not Will is involved. As the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place, I was really happy with how things played out. I absolutely loved the ending of the book - I was expecting one final twist, but expected it to be something different, so I was glad to be caught off my game! 

All in all, I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of the psychological thriller genre! I've had Catherine Ryan Howard's book Distress Signals on my to-read list for a while, so now I'll have to move it up and read it sooner! I'd like to thank Netgalley and Blackstone publishing for my copy of the book. It was my pleasure to provide an honest review. The Liar's Girl is out now, so be sure to pick up your copy! 
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,317 reviews
January 30, 2021
3.5 backlist stars

Much like my friend Jayme, I first found this author with “Rewind” and “The Nothing Man.” We buddy read “Distress Signals” and now “The Liar’s Girl” is the final from Catherine Ryan Howard. It feels good to have them all checked off!

This one is set in one of my favorite places, Ireland, and features what sounds like a lovely college – St. John’s College. Alison is having a wonderful time her freshman year with childhood friend Liz there as well. All going well until girls are found murdered in the nearby canal. Things go from bad to worse when Alison’s boyfriend Will is arrested as the serial killer.

Ten years go by and suddenly a new woman is found in the canal. Is there a copycat out there or is the wrong man in prison? Will says he will only speak with Alison to share new details. Having fled Ireland 10 years ago, Alison has an impossible choice to make.

This psychological thriller had a slow build and the author took time to develop the characters. There was one big twist at the end that I did suspect. I rounded up for this twist!

Thanks for the buddy read Jayme! On to the next one.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,956 reviews485 followers
February 24, 2023
Audiobook narrated by Alana Kerr Collins, Alan Smyth, and Gary Furlong 10h 26m

Catherine Ryan Howard is another author that I have been curious to explore and I selected this title with one of my Audible credits.

Set in Dublin Ireland, this crime thriller includes one of my favorite plots, a convicted killer will help police with their copycat murders but only if they get to tell a particular person. In this case, Will Hurley needs to speak to Alison Smith, whom he had dated at the time of his arrest. Alison soon finds herself deep in the investigation but is she prepared for what Will has kept to himself for over ten years?

Told for the majority of the time through Alison's perspective, this took a few chapters before I became interested. However, I appreciated that the chapters were mostly short and I the last five hours was listened to without interruption. The characters were interesting but I guessed early on a few details of the story.

Overall, I liked it and would consider reading more titles by the author.

Goodreads review published 23/02/23
Profile Image for Lori Lamothe.
Author 10 books115 followers
October 24, 2019
Alison and Liz have been best friends since grade school so when they both get into St. John's College everything seems perfect. After years spent in a backwater town, they can finally begin their real lives in Dublin. But things don't turn out the way they planned. Within a few weeks of their arrival, Alison falls in love with the gorgeous Will Hurley and everyone else fades into the background, including Liz. Not long afterward, female college students start turning up dead—students they know. When Liz is murdered, a devastated Alison doesn't see how things can get any worse. Until Will confesses to the crimes.

Ten years later the Dublin police show up at Alison's door in the Netherlands. She's fled Ireland and has done everything in her power to forget the past, but now the Canal killings have started again and the police need her help. Will, who has been locked in a psychiatric ward for 10 years, won't talk to anybody but Alison. Is he using her for his own purposes or does he have information that can stop the copycat murders?

Confession: I started this novel six months ago and put it down. I think I'd read one too many “Girl” books and had reached my limit. Also, the first chapters are on the slow side. Recently I made a pledge to catch up on my ARC's so I picked it up again – and I'm very glad I did. Once the story gets underway it becomes harder and harder to put down, to the point where I was practically skimming the final pages. Alternating between past and present, The Liar's Girl is told primarily from Alison's point of view in short, gripping chapters. Her meetings with Will are reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs, with the difference that it's not clear how guilty Will actually is. Part of Alison wants to believe he's innocent - a good guy who got railroaded into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. Part of her still believes he's a ruthless serial killer who possesses the deceptive, calculating charm of a Ted Bundy. And she's not sure which possibility she wants to be true.

I don't want to want to give away the plot, but I will say I was expecting something like the twist at the end and thought it was well done. I also liked the depiction of Alison's friendship with Liz, as well as her relationship with Will. Catherine Ryan Howard perfectly captures the heady, whirlwind, seemingly miraculous feeling of falling hard for that first guy – as well as the hollow sense when things fall apart (though fortunately my past relationships don't involve serial killers). Howard's depiction of Liz is also nuanced. At times Liz seems more frenemy than best friend but she's more than a 2-dimensional cliche. Her conflicted feelings and the problems they create seem authentic and familiar. I also liked the Dublin setting, especially the descriptions of freshman life at St. John's. I wasn't suprised to learn this novel was shortlisted for an Edgar award and look forward to reading more of Howard's fiction.

Much thanks to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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