Covers of Liane Moriarty's books against a blue background.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Australian novelist Liane Moriarty may have become a superstar author with the adaptation of her book Big Little Lies, but she was a successful novelist long before being associated with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.

To date, Moriarty has published eight novels including her latest, Apples Never Fall. Here’s our essential guide to where to start with her gripping bibliography. 

Three Wishes (2003)

Moriarty’s first book, Three Wishes, was released in 2003, and focused on triplets Lyn, Cat and Gemma Kettle. Lyn’s life is all about checklists, Cat has learned a secret about her marriage, and Gemma holds out hope for a lasting love.

Three Wishes follows the sisters through their 33rd year as they deal with sibling rivalry, secrets, and being part of a trio.

The book’s sharp observations when it comes to relationships between women would be a hint of what was to come with Moriarty’s future novels. 

Big Little Lies (2014)

Moriarty’s most famous novel was released in 2014 (three years before the first series of the adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman came out).

The book follows a trio of wealthy women – Jane, Madeline and Celeste – in a small, beautiful coastal town. Jane is a single mum with a secret, Madeline is a force to be reckoned with, and Celeste is beautiful and guarded.

When a minor incident involving the women's children escalates, playground whispers turn to spiteful rumours, eventually resulting in murder.

“It champions its women with a handy, all-purpose rationale: sometimes doing the wrong thing is also right,” said The New York Times in a review. 

What Alice Forgot (2009)

Moriarty’s 2009 novel is about the titular Alice, who at 29 is engaged to the wonderful Nick, and pregnant with their first child. But that memory is from 10 years ago; Alice slipped in a step aerobics class, hit her head and lost a decade.

Now she’s a bossy mother in the middle of nasty divorce, and for some reason her sister Elisabeth isn’t speaking to her. Can Alice get back to the life she lost? 

The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011)

The Hypnotist’s Love Story combines a love story with dark secrets.

Hypnotherapist Ellen O’Farrell is taken with her handsome new boyfriend, Patrick. But he has a confession: Patrick has a stalker who won’t leave him alone.

Ellen is disturbed but curious, drawn to to finding out what would drive this woman to such obsessive behaviour. Ellen almost thinks she’d like to meet her, but what she doesn’t realise is that she already has.

Kirkus Reviews said of the book that the "effervescent comedy and troubling melodrama combine to create a satisfying beach read, escapist but not unintelligent". 

Nine Perfect Strangers (2019)

Moriarty’s most recent book (soon to be a TV series with Nicole Kidman) is set in a remote wellness retreat. The nine strangers of the title, all living imperfect lives, head to the retreat for an intense 10 days that promises to change their lives.

In charge at Tranquillum House is the domineering Masha, whose methods soon start to make the guests feel healthier and happier. Her opposite is Frances, one of the guests, who is a middle-aged romance novelist whose latest book has been rejected by her publisher.

Nine Perfect Strangers is a funny and tense thriller, which The New York Times said "raises fascinating questions about our relentless quest for self-improvement, why we seek out others to transform us and whether external change causes internal change, or vice versa”. 

The Husband’s Secret (2013)

In a review of The Husband’s Secret, Kirkus Reviews said that "Moriarty may be an edgier, more provocative and bolder successor to Maeve Binchy”, and wrote that the book’s real darkness is “offset by the author’s natural wit”.

The novel focuses on three women, at the centre of which is Cecilia Fitzpatrick. When she finds a letter from her husband with instructions to only open in the event of his death, she can’t resist reading it. But what she discovers inside is a shocking truth.

Also part of the story are Tess, recently single and back home with her young son, and widowed school secretary Rachel who is still grieving the loss of her teenage daughter, and increasingly convinced she knows who the murderer is.

The Husband’s Secret was a Richard and Judy Book Club choice. 

Finally, last but certainly not least: Apples Never Fall. Moriarty's most recent novel follows the Delaney family, who from the outside are content – but when the matriarch of the family goes missing, the family is forced to confront what's happening beneath the surface.

Here, Moriarty shows just how honed her instincts and attention to details have become: her portrayal of Joy and Stanley Delaney is perhaps her finest yet, from the pitch-perfect interactions that bring them to life to the nuances of plot (the mysterious scratch on Stanley's face is an intriguing touch) that make the novels one of her most absorbing yet. If you're looking for an intro to Moriarty's bibliography, why not work backwards from here?

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