Eleven Liars by Robert Gold

Reviewed by Rod McLary

Even though this is the author’s second book [his debut novel was Twelve Secrets] I had not previously heard of him.  As the novel’s title is Eleven Liars and the previous one is called Twelve Secrets, there is more than a suggestion that we are at the beginning of a series with Ben Harper as the protagonist.  The next one may well be Ten ????

The premise of Eleven Liars centres on the discovery of a body in a burnt-out community centre.  The body is as old as the centre and clearly was placed there before the centre was completed some twenty years previously.  However, the twist is that the body is identified as the person who has supposedly died in a house fire around the same time.  Enter Ben Harper who is determined to uncover the real identities of both victims and in the process uncovers secrets and lies seemingly involving everyone in the town.

Ben experienced a double tragedy when he was a child and the memory of this still haunts him.  This is quite apposite given the backstory to the narrative.

There are many novels which have at their core secrets and obfuscations which infect not only those who hold them but also all those who are caught up in the web.  The narrative at the heart of this novel delivers both tension and twists.  However, the impact of the narrative is softened by the author’s predilection for describing in some detail the day-to-day actions of the characters.  The movements of one in particular – Pamela Cuthbert who perhaps holds the most significant secret of all – are described at length and in quite some detail.  We learn, for example, that she is almost out of bread and butter and that she would have to walk down to the mini market later in the morning; and that consequently she can ‘spread her thick-cut marmalade a little more generously’ [41].  This degree of information adds little to the narrative and has the effect of slowing down the action quite significantly.

The local Vicar also has secrets to hide and it would be a major spoiler to even hint at what they might be, but they too come to light in a very dramatic way.  The protagonist Ben Harper utilises al  his investigative skills to uncover the truth behind the two deaths [murders] and along the way discovers a drug-dealing operation involving a fifteen-year-old boy.  In the course of Ben’s investigations, the police are merely bystanders.  But Ben makes a very good investigator and with his rather charming manner encourages the women into disclosing their secrets.

One of the strengths of the novel is the gradual disclosing of these secrets as the struggle to maintain them becomes overwhelming for the holders.  As Shakespeare once said ‘but at the length, truth will out’; and by the end of the novel, the whole truth is laid bare.  The journey to the truth is quite a pleasant one even if the crimes committed are rather unpleasant.

This is an engaging book and the characters are worthy of the sympathy of the reader – with one or two significant exceptions.  For those readers of crime novels who prefer the Kerry Greenwood or Ann Cleeves end of the genre, this is one for you.

Eleven Liars


by Robert Gold


ISBN 978 075158 279 6

$32.99; 428pp



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