The Liar's Child

A Novel

About the Book

In this intense and intimate family portrait that moves at a thriller’s pace, a troubled woman faces a gripping moral dilemma after rescuing two abandoned children from a hurricane.
On the outskirts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks sits the Paradise, an apartment complex where renters never stay long enough to call the place “home”—and neighbors are seldom neighborly. It’s ideal for Sara Lennox, who moved there to escape a complicated past—and even her name—and rebuild a new life for herself under the radar. But Sara cannot help but notice the family next door, especially twelve-year-old Cassie and five-year-old Boon. She hears rumors and whispers of a recent tragedy slowly tearing them apart.
When a raging storm threatens then slams the coastal community, Sara makes a quick, bold decision: Rescue Cassie and Boon from the storm and their broken home—without telling a soul. But this seemingly noble act is not without consequences. Some lethal.
Carla Buckley crafts a richly rewarding psychological portrait, combining a heart-wrenching family drama with high-stakes suspense, as the lives of three characters intertwine in an unforgettable story of fury, fate—and redemption.

Praise for The Liar’s Child

“Surprising and rewarding . . . Ms. Buckley does what only the best suspense writers can do: She makes you care about what happens to her characters, provoking your emotions as well as your curiosity.”The Wall Street Journal
“Buckley has crafted a complex and compelling story. The nuances and dynamics at play in The Liar’s Child will take the most jaded reader on a heartfelt and emotional journey.”—Associated Press
“A wonderfully complex and multilayered drama complete with the suspense that keeps the pages turning. Fans of Kate White and Diane Chamberlain will be asking if it’s possible for a child to leave the past behind long after the book ends.”Booklist
“Carla Buckley’s superb psychological thrillers are always emotionally wrenching but The Liar’s Child packs a visceral gut punch that knocks the wind right out of us . . . Emotive writing that packs a wallop to both the heart and the mind.”Book Trib
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Praise for The Liar's Child

“Surprising and rewarding . . . Ms. Buckley does what only the best suspense writers can do: She makes you care about what happens to her characters, provoking your emotions as well as your curiosity.”The Wall Street Journal
“Buckley has crafted a complex and compelling story. The nuances and dynamics at play in The Liar’s Child will take the most jaded reader on a heartfelt and emotional journey.”—Associated Press

“You should read The Liar’s Child by Carla Buckley because it’s a lovely and evocative story, and because it raises all kinds of questions about parents and children, secrets and safety. But be careful: This is a writer who knows how to break your heart.”—Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found

“Buckley has a rare gift for character. In The Liar’s Child, she digs deep into the hearts of the troubled, flawed, and all-too-human souls who populate this beautifully written and utterly involving novel. I didn’t so much open this book as fall inside this compelling story.” —Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Under My Skin

“Buckley is a sly writer. Just when you think you have things figured out, she flips the story on its head. Deft plotting and psychologically fleshed out characters make The Liar’s Child a ripping good read.”—Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Dream Daughter

 “Buckley’s provocative novel may be set against an exciting outer storm, but it’s the complex inner storms of her nuanced characters that had me gripping the pages.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
“Told in Buckley’s trademark evocative prose, The Liar’s Child spotlights her singular gift: the ability to tug on the threads of her characters’ lives and make everything unravel, and then expertly stitch their lives back together again.”
—Karen Dionne, author of the international bestseller The Marsh King’s Daughter
“Her characters are believably flawed; her creation of atmosphere and setting is perfection. I adored this beautifully written book, and I double-dog dare you to not find yourself wanting to read from start to finish without a break.”—Elizabeth J. Church, author of All the Beautiful Girls and The Atomic Weight of Love

“A mystery wrapped in an achingly good family drama, The Liar’s Child hooked me from page one. An unconventional love story that broke my heart in all the best ways, Carla Buckley’s emotionally complex, beautifully written tale is also a page-turner that will keep you up long past your bedtime.”—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of The Almost Sisters
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The Liar's Child


They’d assigned her a man and a woman—the woman was there to accompany Sara into the restrooms and motel rooms along the trip from St. Paul to the Outer Banks, places where the man couldn’t go. Nicole, her name was. His was Luis. Or so they said. Sara didn’t care. She’d been playing this game longer than they had.

They rode in a dark sedan with tinted windows. They followed a circuitous route, driving west, then south, and finally east, stopping along the way in small towns to change vehicles—pulling into an empty parking lot, Luis getting out rst to walk around and check the new car, shining a light beneath the undercarriage and passing a hand- held device along the dashboard before Nicole would let Sara climb out of one backseat and into the next. e vehicles were exactly alike, the differences among them being the way each smelled. The first had reeked of popcorn, and the second, a sharp pine scent. is one, stale coffee.

When they stopped for the night, Nicole would check out the motel room while Luis waited in the car with Sara. Then Nicole would wave Sara out of the car and inside the room, closing the door quickly behind them and sliding the chain. Then it was lights-out—no TV, no reading, no chitchat. Sara was skilled at getting people to talk about themselves, but she didn’t even try with these two. What was the point?

Where have you always wanted to live? the Director had asked, back at the beginning, when they first started talking about using her instead of prosecuting her. California, Sara said, instantly, maybe Seattle. They picked North Carolina. e Outer Banks was filled with vacationers who came and went, they explained, and permanent residents who wanted to keep to themselves. No one would pay Sara the least bit of attention. As long as she kept her head down, she’d be okay.

It had been a long journey conducted mostly in silence, leaving behind sleety avenues and overcast skies before winding through serrated mountains and emerging into a land transformed by greenery and flowers. When at last they drove onto the long, narrow bridge soaring over the ocean, Nicole rolled down the windows. “Smell that air.”
Sara said nothing. It wasn’t California or Seattle.

The Outer Banks was a strip of land hanging out in the Atlantic, accessible only by bridges at the northern and southern tips, studded with magnolia trees and palms. Signs bristled. Peaches, barbecue, fresh boiled peanuts. Churches and Brazilian waxes.

Luis slowed the sedan and flicked on the turn signal. Sara glanced at the strip mall opposite, the faded placards taped to shop windows. This was an area in transition, though whether it was trending up or down, she couldn’t tell. She’d usually spent her time in neighborhoods that had already decided.

They bumped into a courtyard. The Paradise, the sign said. It didn’t look like paradise. The grubby building in front of her rose four bleak stories connected by stark concrete walkways. e roof was patched. Beach towels sagged over railings; miniblinds dangled over every window. The parked cars were older models with sagging bumpers and decaying panels. The only thing running in the stone fountain were rivulets of rust beneath the spigots. Three teenage boys and a girl stopped to let them drive past, all four dressed in black. Making a statement. Clueless, Sara thought.

Luis braked to a stop.
“This is it?” Sara couldn’t keep the horror out of her voice.

Luis glanced back at her. Of the two, he’d turned out to be the friendly one. He and Nicole had probably flipped a coin, deciding who would play good cop. “It’s on the ocean.”

Maybe he was afraid she’d refuse to get out of the car. The Paradise was a full block from the ocean, a line of private residences standing between it and the water. She could hear the ocean and smell it, but she couldn’t see it.

Sara got out to talk to the building manager. Luis and Nicole waited in the car. Inside, a circulating fan beat the humid air. The guy behind the counter glanced up. Bald, fat, sweat prickling his upper lip. “Help you?”

“I’m here about an apartment.”


She didn’t even stumble. “Sara Lennox.” It was her first time using it.

About the Author

Carla Buckley
Carla Buckley is the author of The Good Goodbye, The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a best first novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Wharton School of Business, and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and three children. She is currently at work on her next novel. More by Carla Buckley
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