After fleeing a miserable childhood, Max spent his teenage years living on the streets of New York City. Yet now, in his 30s, he is teaching art in a picturesque Vermont college town. He and his new wife, Susannah, are plainly in love. He gets along smashingly with Freddy, her teenage son from a previous marriage. And he is a rising star in his field, commanding lucrative speaking fees. He seems to have fashioned a perfect life.
Max lacks the academic credentials his job requires, but he has more than enough intelligence, boldness and charisma to sustain the fraud. Everything will be just fine as long as no one finds the body of the real Max buried on a New Hampshire mountainside.
But in the very first chapter of "The Perfect Liar," the sixth novel by Vermont College of Fine Arts President Thomas Christopher Greene, Susannah finds a note, written in capital letters, on their front door:
"I KNOW WHO YOU ARE." Susannah, who knows nothing of her husband's past, is confused and shaken. Max assures her it's just a stupid prank, but he is secretly determined to track down and eliminate the threat.
Once he believes he has done so, however, more notes — "DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT?" and "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID" — appear on their front door. Before long, the reader is sure to wonder if Susannah, too, may be harboring a dark secret.
The result is a taut, well-written thriller, but this novel is more than that. It is also both a textured examination of the lies people tell to those they love and a reminder that it is never easy to escape the traumas of a troubled childhood.
The pace is crisp, the surprises keep coming and there are two big ones that readers are unlikely to see coming.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."