Ida Linehan Young’s The Liars is a sequel to The Promise, (2019) which was a spin-off of 2018’s Being Mary Ro. There is no doubt that she is amongst the best of the best of Newfoundland’s storytellers, in a class with Gary Collins and Kevin Major, among others. If you haven’t read any of Ms. Linehan Young’s books, I encourage you to start with Being Mary Ro which sets the locales and people that will eventually appear in The Promise, with its quintessential cliff-hanger ending, thus making The Liars required reading.
It’s difficult to go into any detail about the story without giving away any of the details, but The Liars is centred around a young girl, Beatrice, who is being raised by John and Alice MacDonald, who has a past they are trying to keep hidden (“the liars” of the title). They are constantly afraid of being recognized any time they venture out in public, which they do as little as possible. Nevertheless, they are giving Beatrice the best life possible ever since they found themselves in possession of her as a baby (which is a storyline in itself). However, their life may be in danger as an escaped murderer threatens their lives, for he knows their true identity.
Not Exactly “Cozy” Reading
Never really in the “cozy mystery” genre, Ms. Linehan Young’s writing can often be quite stark at times:
“Now here she stood at the cliff, waiting to be dragged back to the house once he saw she was terrorized enough and remorseful enough for her failings as a wife. Her future was in his grasp, always in his harsh grasp. Just push me, she thought.”
At other times, the narrative can be cloying such as when a man (I won’t name him) is speaking to another man’s corpse (I won’t name him/it either):
“____ , I don’t know how to do this,” _____ said. I have to leave you like this in case they come back. I’ll make sure you’re found and buried properly. That much I’ll promise you.” He squeezed ____’s cold and lifeless hand and closed his eyes.
I doubt anyone ever speaks out loud to a corpse. I’ve been around a few, and I was never moved to speak out loud to them. Maybe other people do, but this passage could have been written as to what the man was conceiving of and would have worked just as effectively. Other characters are squeaky clean, such as Danol Cooper, the love of Erith Lock’s life, who can do no wrong and has enough money and men at his disposal to seemingly right any tricky situation.
I sound a little cynical, but in truth, I absolutely enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book; it retained my full interest and I finished it in a few uninterrupted hours. From the ending, I would guess that Ms. Linehan Young is looking to move on to other stories, and I for one can be counted among her legions of followers to be there when her next book is released. I’ve mentioned before that her novels are suitable for mature teen readers on up, and while there are some gruesome scenes, they are never drawn out in detail. If you like good historical fiction stories told in a similar vein to Genevieve Graham’s, then you’ll enjoy this trilogy of turn-of-the-last-century novels from the prolific pen of Ida Linehan Young.
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.