By Ekta R. Garg
April 23, 2018
Release date: July 25, 2017
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
Four friends bound by a secret reunite after more than 15 years at the location where they experienced the worst night of their lives. One of them has received threats, and she’s reached out to the others to help her through a situation they thought they’d resolved years earlier. Author Ruth Ware will leave readers underwhelmed and rolling their eyes at her third novel The Lying Game.
Isa Wilde begins her day like any other when she receives a text from her friend, Kate. The text reads, “I need you,” and Isa knows right away that she has to go to Kate. The text is sent to two other friends, Thea and Fatima, and they respond that they’re coming. They’ve only ever made the implied request to one another in the most dire of circumstances, and all of them understand that when it comes it’s for an urgent matter.
She’s no longer a girl at a boarding school for wayward girls, however. Isa is an adult with a partner, Owen, and a baby. When she tells Owen Kate has invited her for a few days, he encourages her to go. Since the birth of their child, Isa has struggled with all the challenges motherhood brings and needs a break. She packs some things and takes the baby with her to the village of Salten on the English coast to reunite with her three friends.
The four shared many things at school, including a reputation for fooling people. The Lying Game, as they called it, involved elaborate tall tales. The girls would invent things on the spot in a variety of situations; often their lies helped them escape trouble or provide amusement, making other students angry and teachers feel foolish. When Kate’s father and art teacher, Ambrose, disappeared under scandalous circumstances, the girls only had one another’s support when they got expelled.
Now Kate has called the group together again, and Isa’s instinct tells her it’s because of Ambrose. When she and the others reunite, Kate confirms their worst fears: Ambrose’s body has been found in the marsh close to her home. The girls must face their part in Ambrose’s disappearance and will need to decide just how much they want to risk for their friendship.
Author Ruth Ware missteps in a huge way with her third book. While the title and promotional materials will lead readers to think that the Lying Game plays a major role in the story, in reality it doesn’t. The girls lied, yes, and did so many times while in school together. Their lies, however, don’t amount to much. They simply serve as a plot device to bring Isa, Kate, Thea, and Fatima together for the big scandal that constitutes Ambrose’s disappearance and then again years later when Ambrose’s body appears.
Ware gives the narrative a heavy-handed dose of drama. Every paragraph and chapter seem loaded with meaning and tension, so much so that when the actual mystery unravels readers will sigh with relief that it’s done. Far from presenting a taut thriller that will leave readers grinning with delight at its cleverness, The Lying Game comes across as several limp strands tied together. The four friends in the book spend most of their time furrowing their brows and wondering how they could have gotten themselves into such a mess. It’s odd that it takes the summons of one of them to make them realize the gravity of the situation; while they’ve all lived with their choices all these years, none of them have taken the time to think through the possible consequences.
Diehard fans of Ware’s work might want to pick this one up out of loyalty, but otherwise I recommend readers Bypass The Lying Game.