The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Verdict: 4/5

Who Should Read: Fans of Ruth Ware and Paula Hawkins

I loved Ruth Ware’s first two books, The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood, so I was practically giddy to find out she was releasing a new book this summer, The Lying Game: A Novel.

Synopsis from the cover flap:

“On a cool June Morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic village of Salten, along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London — Fatima, Thea, Isa — receive the text they always hoped would never come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second-rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both boarders and faculty. But their little game had consequences, and as the four converge in present-day Salten, they realize their shared past was not as safely buried as they had once hoped…”

Let me start off by saying this is a true Ware book — her style and voice welcomed me back like an old friend from page one. However, Ware deviates from the pattern of her first books by moving this one at a steadier pace. It is by no means slow, but it doesn’t take off as quickly as Woman in Cabin 10 and Dark, Dark Wood.

Going along with the slow-burn pacing, the dark turns in the book aren’t as sinister or terrifying as in Ware’s previous works. Lying Game has two major revelas, and while they are dark, they’re not going to haunt your dreams at night.

This book focuses more heavily on the characters, particularly narrator Isa. The story features a fair number of flashbacks to their school days, allowing for examination of their former selves. “I thought I remembered everything, but now, as the memories sweep over me like floodwater, I realize that I didn’t, not fully,” Isa thinks at one point.

I appreciated Isa as a narrator mostly because her frantic thoughts and musings keep the suspense alive for most of the book. I was a bit disappointed, though, that the three other girls weren’t developed as much. It makes sense that we know the most about Isa, given that she’s narrating, but the other three fall flat and don’t make much of an impression, despite them playing important roles in the plot.

The real power and draw of this book, in my opinion, is that examination — of things they thought or believed before time and experience taught them otherwise. The arrogance and naiveté of youth are apparent in every flashback. By the end of the book, Isa (and maybe the others, can’t be sure) sees her youth and time spent at Salten, as well as the people she surrounded herself with, in a much different light. At numerous points throughout the book, I found myself thinking back on cringe-inducing moments from my childhood and reflecting on how very differently I would see things today.

Come for the darkness and suspense; stay for the childhood follies and reminiscences that may dredge up thoughts of your own old secrets and lies.

Have you read The Lying Game by Ruth Ware? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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