Such Charming Liars

Such Charming Liars

by Karen M. McManus
Such Charming Liars

Such Charming Liars

by Karen M. McManus


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Notes From Your Bookseller

We love a heist story and Karen McManus' breakneck thrillers. Her latest will make you second guess how complicated your family really is — especially when this one consists of professional liars, scammers and grifters.

The newest mystery from the author One of Us Is Lying, the Queen of thrillers, Karen M. McManus! When mother-daughter grifters set out on their final job, the heist gets deadly and dangerously personal.

For all of Kat’s life, it’s just been her and her mother, Jamie—except for the forty-eight hours when Jamie was married and Kat had a stepbrother, Liam. That all ended in an epic divorce, and Kat and Liam haven’t spoken since.

Now Jamie is a jewel thief trying to go straight, but she has one last job—at billionaire Ross Sutherland’s birthday party. And Kat has figured out a way to tag along. What Kat doesn’t know, though, is that there are two surprise guests at the dazzling Sutherland compound that weekend. The last two people she wants to run into. Liam and his father—a serial scammer who has his sights set on Ross Sutherland’s youngest daughter.

Kat and Liam are on a collision course to disaster, and when a Sutherland dies, they realize they might actually be in the killer’s crosshairs themselves. Somehow Kat and Liam are the new targets, and they can’t trust anyone—except each other.

Or can they? Because if there’s one thing both Kat and Liam know, it’s how to lie. They learned from the best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593485057
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/30/2024
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 8,931
Product dimensions: 5.81(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.06(d)
Lexile: HL740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Karen M. McManus is a #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of young adult thrillers. Her books include the One of Us Is Lying series, which has been turned into a television show on Peacock, as well as the standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins, You’ll Be the Death of Me, Nothing More to Tell, and Such Charming Liars. Karen's critically acclaimed, award-winning work has been translated into more than forty languages.

Read an Excerpt



“Would the young lady like to see something with a pearl?”

“I’d love to,” I say.

The voice I use isn’t mine. It’s what Gem calls “vaguely posh”; meant to convey a childhood at British boarding schools interrupted by a transatlantic move to New England that almost, but not entirely, eliminated my accent. It’s a lot to get across in three words and I don’t think I nailed it, but the man behind the counter smiles kindly.

“Sixteen is an important birthday,” he says.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I spent mine in my friend Hannah’s hot tub with Nick Sheridan and a flask of tequila. But now is not the time to share that recollection, so I just smile demurely as Gem says, “A special day for my special girl.”

Gem’s accent is impeccable. She sounds like a BBC presenter and looks like a twenty-first-century version of the grandmother on Downton Abbey. I barely recognized her when she came to pick me up, and couldn’t stop stealing glances at her transformation during the drive to the Prudential Center in Back Bay. Gem’s coarse steel-gray hair is concealed beneath a silvery chignon. She’s decked out in an elegant blue suit that would fit in at a royal wedding, and she’s done some kind of makeup magic that’s tamed her leathery skin into soft, powdery lines.

I don’t recognize myself, either, when I glance into the mirror behind the counter. I’m a buttery blond, for one thing, and I’m wearing a blouse-and-skirt combo that looks expensive, even though I’m sure it’s not. The nonprescription tortoiseshell glasses I have on are so cute that I might make them a permanent part of my wardrobe. Gem and I are cosplaying the kind of people who swan into Bennington & Main to celebrate birthdays with expensive jewelry, and we are pulling it off.

“Something like this?” the sales associate asks, holding up a delicate rose-gold ring with a single gray pearl. It’s exactly the kind of ring a wealthy, indulgent grandmother would buy, and even though Gem is none of those things, she gives a regal nod of approval.

“Try it on, Sophie,” she says.

I slip it onto my right index finger and hold out my hand, admiring the subtle shine. Not my style at all, but perfect for Sophie Hicks-Hartwell. That’s my getting-into-character name, which I picked not only because it, too, sounds vaguely posh, but because it’s the name of a girl whose Instagram identity was stolen in a twisted true crime story that I devoured recently on my favorite podcast. A little inside joke that even Gem didn’t catch.

“It’s so pretty,” I say. “What do you think, Nana?”

“Very sweet,” Gem says, peering over her bifocals. “But a bit on the small side.”

That’s the cue for the sales associate, whose name tag reads BERNARD, to show us bigger and better rings. Gem’s eyes rove over them like dual cameras, capturing every detail of the luxe designs and storing them away for future reference. Gem might be pushing seventy, but her memory is a thousand times sharper than mine. Photographic, my mother always says.

“Should we look at something with a diamond?” she asks.

Hell yeah is on the tip of my tongue, but that’s a Kat response. Sophie would never. “Really? Could we?” I simper as Bernard pulls out another tray.

“Looks like your grandmother is getting ready to spoil you,” he says, eyes gleaming with the reflected glow of a bigger commission.

For the first time, my stomach swoops guiltily. When Gem proposed this little field trip, I was more than happy to come along, because Bennington & Main is a retail nightmare—a historic family-owned store that got snapped up by an obnoxious crypto billionaire and transformed into a Tiffany copycat. The new CEO hired an emerging designer to update what he called the company’s “staid” style, then fired her once her designs took off.

In other words, Bennington & Main is the perfect target for Gem’s latest business: selling near-perfect fakes of iconic jewelry designs. Customers get the look they want at sterling-and-cubic-zirconia prices, and a shady company loses value. Win-win, if by win you mean a crypto bro loses. Which I do.

But none of that is Bernard’s fault. We’re just wasting his time while Gem studies the latest Bennington & Main designs, cataloging all the tiny details you can’t see on a website. “Exquisite,” she murmurs, holding up a diamond vine ring that’s so perfectly constructed it looks like a wearable sculpture. I know from our online stalking that the ring Gem is holding costs more than $20,000, so it’s out of even Sophie’s league.

Still, I can’t help but lean closer, imagining what it would be like to own something so beautiful. To wave at a friend or swipe at my phone while it casually sparkles on my hand. I’ve seen an unusual amount of fine jewelry in my lifetime for someone who’s (a) sixteen and (b) flat broke, but this . . . this is something special.

“And not for you,” Gem adds with an arch smile in my direction. And even though she’s playing a role, the words still sting. Not for you. Sometimes it feels like that applies to almost everything a girl my age is supposed to have. “Maybe on your twenty-first birthday.”

“We’ll hold it for you till then,” Bernard jokes, and it’s official—I feel like a jerk. I want out of this store, and more important, out of Sophie’s pampered little head. Surely Gem’s had enough time by now? But when I try to catch her eye, she’s still peering at the vine ring.

“Nana, I think . . . I didn’t have lunch, and I’m a bit lightheaded. . . .” I back away from the counter, hand brushing my temple. “Could we get something to eat?”

“Let me get you some water,” Bernard says solicitously. He makes a beckoning motion, and the next thing I know, a miniature bottle of Evian is being pressed into my hand by another black-clad associate. I twist off the cap and take a sip as Gem finally turns my way, transforming instantly into the picture of grandmotherly concern.

“Sophie, dearest, of course we can,” she says. “I should have suggested that first thing. I know you never eat enough for breakfast. Thank you so much,” she adds to Bernard, handing him the vine ring. “You’ve been wonderfully helpful. We’ll be back once we’ve had a bite.”

“Of course. Anything you’d like me to set aside?” he asks.

I want to soften the blow of us evaporating from his life once we leave the store, so I say, “I really liked the first one I tried on. The pearl.” The smallest, cheapest ring.

Bernard, champ that he is, smiles graciously. “A perfect choice,” he says as I chug the rest of my water in a decidedly un-Sophie-like manner. “Enjoy your meal.” His associate comes back to take my empty bottle, whisking it quickly out of sight.

Gem and I walk across the plush carpet to the gleaming silver doors, which the security guard opens with a nod and a smile. “Have a good afternoon, ladies,” he says.

“You too,” we say in unison as we step across the threshold.

Once the door closes and we’re in the mall, I breathe a sigh of relief. Not because what we were doing was wrong—although, okay, technically it was, or would’ve been if we were doing it to a less sketchy company—but because this was the first time Gem has asked for my help. Gem Hayes might not be my actual grandmother, but she’s as close as I’ll ever get to one. I don’t know what life would be like if my mother hadn’t met Gem twelve years ago, but I do know this: it would’ve been grim.

So when I grab hold of Gem’s arm to pull her close and say “Love you, Nana” in Sophie’s lilting voice, it sounds like a joke, but I actually mean it.

I can only say it like this, though. Gem is, as she puts it, a “flinty old broad,” who’d either roll her eyes or cuss me out if I tried that under normal circumstances.

Gem responds with a light titter that’s nothing like her usual guffaw. “And I you, Sophie dearest.” She waits until we’re down the escalator and away from the crowds before adding in her normal tone, “So, you really hungry or what? Wanna hit the food court?”

“No, that’s okay,” I say, swallowing a grin at the mental image of Gem, in her tasteful suit and pearls, chowing down at Panda Express. “I can wait till we get home.”

Gem insists on buying me a coffee from a gourmet pop-up that specializes in caffè mocha, and I sip the velvety-smooth concoction as we make our way outside. It’s a gloriously sunny late June day, and my spirits stay high even when my feet start to ache. Gem had to park six blocks away to find a metered spot, and Sophie’s shoes weren’t made for that kind of trek.

We’re almost at Gem’s car when it happens. One second we’re walking, and the next I’m tumbling headfirst to the ground, my caffè mocha flying everywhere, because Gem pushed me unbelievably hard. No—Gem was pushed, by a guy who came out of nowhere to grab her purse. He tries to take off but can’t, because Gem has one of the straps in a viselike grip.

I heave myself into a sitting position. My lungs can’t catch air and my knees are on fire, scraped raw from the pavement. Gem and the would-be thief are still wrestling for the purse, in what looks to my dizzy brain like a slow-motion tug-of-war.

“Let go, you old bitch, or I’ll fucking gut you,” he grunts.

My heart jumps into my throat. Does he have a knife?

I’ve managed to get myself into a crouch when Gem lets go—only to lunge straight for his eyes, her nails extended like talons. He shrieks in surprise and pain as she gouges him, then staggers to his knees and drops the purse. I grab hold of it as I scramble to my feet, but seconds later it’s yanked roughly from my grasp—by Gem, who uses it to clock the guy in the head, knocking him fully onto the ground.

Then she hands the purse back to me and pulls her keys out of her suit pocket. “Open the car, please, Kat,” she says, tossing me the keys. I manage to not fumble the catch and shakily press the fob while she kicks, hard, at the prone man’s head with her lethal heels. “Don’t even think about getting up,” she growls. Miraculously—or maybe not, because she’s kind of terrifying right now—he obeys.

I dive into the passenger seat and slam the door behind me, my heart pounding so hard that it feels like it’s skipping beats, then wait an endless minute for Gem to slide into the driver’s side. As soon as she closes the door, I press the lock. “Holy shit,” I say breathlessly, craning my neck to see if there’s any sign of the guy behind us. “Was that . . . Did that really happen?”

“He picked the wrong old lady, didn’t he?” she says, turning on the ignition and pulling into the street without bothering to look over her shoulder. A horn blares loudly as she adds, “You okay? Scraped up those knees pretty bad.”

“I’m fine,” I say, grabbing a couple of Kleenex from the glove compartment to dab at my bloody knees. The thin tissue sticks and pulls apart when I tug at it, creating an even bigger mess. There’s still a lump of fear in my throat, but I swallow it down and try to mirror Gem’s calm tone. “Just got the wind knocked out of me. What about you?”

Gem is the toughest woman I know, and she’s been taking self-defense classes for decades, but still. If you’d asked me how long she’d need to take down a full-grown man, I would’ve said more than a minute.

“I’ll feel it tomorrow,” she says, rolling a shoulder. “But not as much as he will. Goddamn asshole. Spilled your drink, too.”

I look down at my ruined blouse and swallow a laugh. I’d say Good riddance, but I’m not sure Gem thinks that Sophie’s Pilgrim preppy look is as awful as I do. “That was a lot of fight over a worthless purse,” I say instead.

“Worthless?” she says in mock indignation. “How dare you.” Gem’s purse is a running joke with everyone who knows her. No matter what type she’s carrying—her usual tote, or this stodgy grandma handbag that I’ve never seen before—it’s stuffed to the brim with so much junk that she couldn’t fit a wallet even if she wanted to. Which she doesn’t, because Gem always keeps anything important tucked in a pocket. “I need every last thing in there.”

“If you say so.” I offer a wan smile before slumping against my seat, giving in to exhaustion as the adrenaline starts draining out of me.

“Besides, I couldn’t let your good work go to waste,” she says.

“My what?” I ask.

Gem smirks. “Look in the side,” she says.

“The side of . . .” I glance around the car, then realize I’m still holding her purse in my lap. When I rotate it, I notice an open pocket on the left. I reach inside and my fingertips brush against a small, hard object—something that’s both textured and impossibly smooth. I have a feeling, suddenly, that I know exactly what it is even before I pull it out.

I’m right. It’s the diamond vine ring from Bennington & Main, glittering in the afternoon sun like an entire galaxy of stars.



I’ve only seen my mother truly angry twice.

The first time was four years ago, when her ex—or, as she puts it, “that garbage excuse for a human Luke Rooney”—tried to friend her on Facebook after eight years of no contact. Luke was the first person my mother dated, if you could call it that, after leaving my nightmare of a father. He was also the last, because their short and spectacularly ill-fated romance convinced her that her taste in men was irredeemable.

And the second time is right now, at Gem.

“You brought Kat where to do what?”

“Relax, Jamie,” Gem says. She’s the picture of calm except for the hard set of her jaw, which makes it clear how little she likes being questioned. There aren’t many people besides my mother who get away with it. “She did great.”

I should’ve suppressed my grin at that, because Jamie gives me a death glare when she sees it. “Wipe that look off your face,” she snaps before turning back to Gem. “Are you kidding me? She shouldn’t be doing great. She shouldn’t have a part in all this. In any of this!”

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