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Book Talk: Cavanagh’s ‘The Liar’ is another wow!

This is not a spoiler. About halfway through Steve Cavanagh’s “The Liar” (2017, 327 pages in paperback), the man in the witness stand swears to tell the truth. Then he exclaims, “My name is Scott Barker. The lies have to stop.”

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I read my first mystery book before I started school. I know how crazy that sounds, but my maternal grandmother taught me to read and gave me vocabulary lessons every day. She belonged to the Book-of-the-Month Club, and recommended that month’s selection, Erle Stanley Gardner’s “Perry Mason and the Case of the Careless Kitten.” I still remember how Perry convinced the jury that his client was “not guilty.”

Therefore, I’ve been reading murder mysteries for a very long time, and I’ve never been so surprised as I was when the man in the witness stand continued his message to the court. So, I’d have to put this, Cavanagh’s third novel, in the top ten of that genre.

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In this Eddie Flynn novel, Eddie — a former conman turned lawyer — is hired by Leonard Howell, a man who is experiencing the worst nightmare that any parent can have. His daughter Caroline has been kidnapped, she’s been missing so long that she may be dead, but he’s just received a ransom demand. Howell believes that Eddie, whose own daughter was kidnapped in a previous Cavanagh book, is the only man that he can trust. Besides, the kidnappers have set up a bait-and-switch operation, and it will take a former grifter to handle the situation.

The bait is a two-million-dollar demand — a setup to fool the cops — and the switch is the real $10 million to be delivered to a different location at the same time. And, Howell doesn’t have it. However, he’s got insurance and a plan to scam the insurance company to get money and retrieve his daughter, whom he loves more than anything in the world. Of course, Eddie agrees to skirt the rules and help, believing that the plan will succeed in getting Caroline back and that he can then defend Howell’s actions afterward.

Along with everything else that’s going on, Eddie is faced with a personal dilemma. He’s served with a subpoena on behalf of unscrupulous lawyer Max Copeland. The subpoena pulls him into an old case that was lost by his good friend Harry Ford, now a superior court judge. If Copeland’s claim that Harry mishandled the case is proved to be true, resulting in the erroneous incarceration of Julie Rosen for killing her own baby, Harry will be ruined.

But there are more dangers and further complications ahead. The case that Eddie is handling in court is winding down, the clock is ticking, and the fate of several people rests heavily on Eddie’s shoulders. To borrow a word invented by Stephen King, this book is unputdownable. I recommend it without reservation.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at



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