Review: The Liars by Petronella McGovern


Title: The Liars

Author: Petronella Govern

Published: 30th August 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin



My Thoughts:


“They never talked about the cave in Wreck Point National Park. No-one did.”

From Australian author Petronella McGovern comes her third gripping novel of psychological drama and suspense, The Liars.

On the outskirts of Kinton Bay, hidden in the dense bush of Wreck Point National Park, lies the Killing Cave. In recent decades it’s served as a haven for teenagers looking for somewhere to party but 15 year-old Siena Britton is determined that its history as a site of an unrecorded massacre of First Nations families by shipwrecked colonists who then went on to found the town, be acknowledged and reclaimed. When she and her boy friend Kyle, discover a skull near the cave’s entrance Siena is certain she’s found proof and uploads a video to ensure the tragedy can’t be swept under the carpet, sparking the concern of her parents and the wrath of the town.

Unfolding from the perspectives of Siena, her parents Meri and Rollo, local DCI Douglas Poole, and an anonymous killer, The Liars is a layered novel that explores family secrets and community tensions as a murderer stalks the town.

Siena’s mother, Meri, isn’t sure what upsets her more, the fact that Siena has been to the Killing Cove, the site of her own adolescent regrets, or that her daughter’s activism highlights the compromises she has made in her own journalistic career. Meri is a complex character with unresolved issues from her past that affects many aspects of her present.

Rollo understands when the local business owners complain that Siena’s crusade could affect the tourist trade they rely on, his own whale watching company is struggling to recover after the pandemic, but he is worried that the skull his daughter has found could be a threat to more than just his livelihood.

DCI Poole’s perspective centres the investigation to identify the skull, the subsequent questions it raises about the fate of four missing persons, and the concern that Kinton Bay is home to a serial killer.

I enjoyed the development of the mystery, or more properly mysteries, since there is more than one secret exposed, and more than one murder to be solved. McGovern’s plotting and pacing is well thought out, and distracted by several red herrings, I didn’t guess the identity of the anonymous character for some time.

Exploring themes of regret, resentment and revenge, McGovern raises a number of issues in The Liars including the whitewashing of Australian history, corruption, media bias, homophobia, and violence against women, which the author handles with realism and sensitivity. She also touches on themes of identity, family and friendship, which are also reflected in the information about whales that introduces the five sections of the novel.

With its intriguing mysteries, complex characters and thought provoking contemporary themes, The Liars is a compelling read.


Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
    Oct 03, 2022 @ 06:34:29

    Sounds terrific, it’s so good to see aspects of historical and contemporary First Nations’ experiences being touched on in mainstream commercial fiction. This is another way in which changes in attitudes and understanding can be progressed: through awareness and information via everyday sources such as novels where readers can learn about issues without feeling ‘preached at.’

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Jennifer
    Oct 03, 2022 @ 10:26:12

    I agree. A terrific read.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. WendyW
    Oct 03, 2022 @ 12:47:10

    There is a lot going on in this book, it sounds exciting for sure.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. laurareadingbooksagain
    Oct 15, 2022 @ 00:09:34

    The plot sounds great. I don’t read many books set in Australia and this would be a good place to start. I am always looking for new settings.

    Liked by 1 person


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