EXCLUSIVE: New Line Cinema has acquired screen rights to The Good Liar, a first novel by the pseudonymous author Nicholas Searle. The book was published by Penguin. The identity of the author isn’t known, but he’s a former civil servant in the UK who spent much of his time working on security matters before deciding to leave in 2011 and begin writing fiction. He wrote The Good Liar while a student of the Curtis Brown creative online course. The novel sparked a bidding war last fall when rights were secured in by Viking in the UK and HarperCollins in the U.S., and it was well reviewed in both places when published earlier this year.

The novel focuses on Roy, a veteran conman and born liar. He meets a wealthy widow named Betty online and believes she’s an easy mark; he’s sure he can pull off the final coup of his career. As the narrative entwines Roy’s and Betty’s futures, it also delves deeply into their pasts, revealing nearly a century of secrets. Before Roy can close the deal, there is a reckoning to be made. Andrea Johnston will oversee for New Line.

The author is repped by Curtis Brown.