Sometimes I have a difficult time maintaining interest in authors who churn out 3 or 4 books a year. To me, they’re too formulaic, too predictable, and too rushed. James Patterson is one of those authors who is guilty of churning out book after book. (I love Patterson’s books. They are always quick and easy reads after a long day.) However, the works of M.J. Arlidge and his character, Helen Grace,, seem to break free of redundancy despite his prolific output.
Liar, Liar is the fourth book in the Helen Grace series. As I’ve stated in the other reviews, Grace is a dark, brooding character that must overcome her own demons in order to exorcise the ones troubling her hometown. Through the previous books and into this one, more of Grace’s shadowy background is revealed.
Behind the case study of Grace’s life is the story of repeated arson attacks across Southampton. Multiple fires are occurring simultaneously across the city. Is it a firefighter behind the blazes? What are the connections between the repeated fires? Grace puts her reputation on the line as she makes unpopular decisions in order to get to the bottom of the case. At the same time, she and the rest of the department must stave off attacks in the press on their handling of the case.
Throughout the twists and turns of this book, a single sentence near the beginning of the book is all that Arlidge gives the reader as a clue to the arsonist’s identity. As in a real investigation, there are leads chased that end up having no connection to the crime. In the execution of these trails, we are drawn deeper into the personas of the characters written. Arlidge is very adept at showing us the depth of his characters through action rather than simple narrative.
Grace is definitely the main character with the biggest secrets. At the same time, we are introduced to her colleague, Charlie, who has been second-guessing coming back to work after the birth of her daughter. There is very obvious postpartum with Charlie. How she handles being away from her child and in the midst of the dangers of her job frequently come up in the book.
Emilia Garanita is the journalist who continues to hound Grace. Throughout the four books, Garanita has had a personal vendetta against Grace, often to the detriment of her job. She is a relentless journalist who is willing to sacrifice her integrity in order to scoop the other media, especially if it puts Grace in a bad light. I would guess that Arlidge may have some issues with the media as this character is the worst of what unscrupulous media has to offer.
This whole book is a race against time as the characters struggle to learn the identity of the arsonist before more property or lives are lost. Readers will drawn right into the action, and turn pages just as quickly as the investigators in the story chase different leads. My heart beat faster during some of the scenes, so well are they written.
M.J. Arlidge has written four books in a relatively short period of time. His fifth book will be out sometime this fall. This prolific writer keeps the reader practically begging for more. Mostly we’re eager for the next crime and its subsequent investigation and solution. For some of us, the slow unveiling of each of the main characters of the course of several books keeps us wanting more. These books are very character driven, and each character gets deeper and richer as the series goes on.
Liar, Liar by M.J. Aldridge is a fantastic book, worthy of the three books that came earlier in the Helen Grace series. With the fifth book, Little Boy Blue, coming out in October, and the sixth book, Hide and Seek, in December, we will have plenty of Helen Grace to keep us company.
Craig Bacon is the same age as M.J. Arlidge. He has lots of book ideas. It’s time to start writing. Please send words of encouragement to him on Twitter at @hippieboy73. Words of discouragement will be handled appropriately. Or not.