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What if you stole someone’s identity then lied about it? Thomas Christopher Greene explores this, madness & despair in his stunning new novel, THE PERFECT LIAR

By Leslie Lindsay

Gorgeously written, all-consuming, literary thriller had me flying through the pages to its disconcerting and haunting conclusion. 

perfect liar.jpg
Thomas Christopher Greene has been a go-to for me for years. He has a seemingly effortless way with words, poignant insights into the human psyche, and his stories just naturally consume and propel. THE PERFECT LIAR (January 15, 2019 St. Martin’s Press), is no exception; I loved every minute.

Max W. is a charismatic imposter living in Vermont. He recently accepted an appointment as an art professor at a local college and they ‘give them a house.’ What’s not to love? All along, Max W. (who was born Phil Wilbur) has carefully shrouded his meager origins in fraud–easily ‘borrowing’ the identity of a wealthy, unsuspecting art school graduate. He insinuates himself into Max W’s world and before you know it, he’s in too deep.

But his wife, Susannah, has deep secrets of her own. She’s a young widow and a single mother who has married well, but thendisconcerting things start happening–menacing letters delivered to the home:

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE and others follow: DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT? And yet a third: I SAW YOU DO IT. 

I found the pacing relentless, the set-up subtleyet clearly there all along, making THE PERFECT LIAR a smart, all-consuming domestic thriller. Greene writes with such chilling beauty and somberness that reminds me much of Anita Shreve (there’s also that small New England town reminiscent of Shreve making this a wholly atmospheric read). THE PERFECT LIAR encompasses so many layers of deceit and dysfunction, leading the reader right up to the chilling and haunting conclusion; I was spellbound.

Read an excerpt here.

“Beautifully written and sharply insightful, The Perfect Liar is a captivating, stay-up-late thriller about dark secrets, dangerous passions, and the perilous pursuit of a picture-perfect life.”

–Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her

Please join me in welcoming Thomas Christopher Greene back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Tom, this book! I loved every minute. THE PERFECT LIAR is a bit genre-bending in that it’s very literary, yet highly dysfunctional, and encompasses a predatory vibe making it so compulsive. In the background is your trademark academia. Can you tell us about the origins of this one, please?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Leslie, first thank you for the kind words and your close reading of my work. I am grateful for it. I think the thing that got me going with this was the idea of someone leaving handwritten notes on a door. We live in such digital age, and this is such an analog way to stalk someone.  Somehow that makes it more terrifying. I confess I’ve always been fascinated, too, by the idea of imposters, grifters and con men. So I’ve wanted for a long time to write a character like Max. And what I was also trying to do here was write a book that, as you suggest, can be read on a number of different levels—a straight up page-turning domestic thriller, but also an homage to the great suspense writer Patricia Highsmith, and further, a tongue-in-cheek critique of the contemporary art world.

daylight environment forest idyllic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s madness, there’s despair. There’s almost a second story that unfolds in the ‘white space’ of the narrative; to me, this is the best kind of writing—and reading. I felt like a very active participant in this chilling tale; thus a partnership between author and reader. I’m curious what your take is on that?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Well, I am glad you felt this, since that is certainly something I try to accomplish. I do see it as a partnership, a contract of sorts. Good fiction is all about revealing things at the right time—I am not trying to trick you, but rather since you have pulled up a chair to hear my story, make sure I keep you locked in to what I am saying. And frankly, people behaving badly are far more interesting than people behaving well, in my opinion. And in the space between the narrative, as you call it, I think there are opportunities, in small ways, to explore different ideas, things that are important to me. For example, in the beginning of the book, Susannah thinks: men fear death, while women fear something far more important: losing their minds.  Why is that? Or is that even true? In some ways by putting ideas in the book that contribute to the narrative but also raise larger questions, I am asking you what you think, and if you agree with me.

person holding and reading book during daytime

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Deceit and identity are core themes of THE PERFECT LIAR. Was there a question you were seeking when you set out to write—and did you find the answer? Or maybe you discovered something else in the process?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

I don’t think I was seeking to answer a specific question, but I find myself in all my fiction returning again and again to specific themes, that I suppose you wouldn’t imagine being explored in a typical thriller. For instance, I am little obsessed with class in America, and the false idea that we live in a meritocracy, the old myth of the American dream. The fact is most of us remain in the station we were born, to be British about it. Some people who puncture that ceiling fascinate me, and when someone, like Max, takes a shortcut to it, even better. Identity, of course is a part of this as well. And then there is love, my other great obsession. Each of my books asks the question: what is significance? And can we find it in the arms of another. I would submit this one does that as much as a love story like my last book, IF I FORGET YOU, albeit in a very different and darker way.

Leslie Lindsay:

Speaking of process…was there any particular scene or moment in the narrative that made your heart beat a little faster, the pads of your fingers sweat? That’s how I always know I’ve hit the sweet spot of the story I’m trying to tell.

Thomas Christopher Greene:

The actual art of writing is a bit of an out-of-body experience for me, to be honest. I spend so much time turning the story over in my mind before my fingers actually hit the keyboard that by the time they do, the process is for me is more a matter of just getting it out of my head and onto the page. That said, without giving too much away, the scene where Max and David Hammer go for the second trail run through the woods was definitely intense. I knew the reader would know something terrible was about to happen, but I love the tension of that, the black flies in the forest, the beating sun, Max running as fast he could when he wasn’t a runner, and how close we are to his point of view, so we are seeing it all cinematically through his eyes.

cascade creek environment falls

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What are you looking forward to reading this winter?

Thomas Christopher Greene:

Well, I am working on a new novel and when I am writing, I don’t read fiction. I’m currently reading a non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick about George Washington and the naval battles around the revolutionary war. It’s quite riveting. But this summer I’ll catch up on all the good fiction coming out this winter.

Leslie Lindsay:

As always, it’s been a delight. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, how you balance writing with your super-busy day job of college president…how Hugo the dog is doing, your favorite place to write…

Thomas Christopher Greene:

I balance running a college and writing by not really having any hobbies. I work a lot and I’ve learned to write differently over the years, more efficiently, in small bursts rather than long, glorious stretches of time. I often write at night at the bar at this restaurant my brother-in-law owns here in Montpelier. Everyone in town knows I write there and they are kind enough to leave me alone as long as my fingers are moving. Otherwise, I love being social.  I do better writing with noise around. As for Hugo, my two-year-old Labrador, he is always one year away from being a really good dog.

landscape photography of tree and sea

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE PERFECT LIAR, please see: 

Order Links: 

Thomas Christopher Greene by Beowulf Sheehan  www.beowulfsheehan.comABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Christopher Greene is the author of six novels, including the bestseller THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE. His latest is a domestic thriller, THE PERFECT LIAR. In 2007, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top graduate fine arts college where he still serves as President. His fiction has been translated into 11 languages. He lives in Vermont.


You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 


#psychthriller #literarythriller #amreading #Vermont #secrets #imposters #grifters #identity 


[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Artful cover photo of The Perfect Liar designed and photographed by L. Lindsay. Follow on Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1]


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