The Lying Game

Written by Ruth Ware

Review written by Jennifer Palmer

Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.


The Lying Game
Harvill Secker
RRP: £12.99
Released: June 15 2017
HBK

Four schoolgirls forged a strong bond at a boarding school - so strong that three of them come immediately to a call “I need you” from the fourth, dropping everything to return to the strange marshy world near the school 17 years later.   They have an explosive, deeply hidden secret which is rising back to the surface.

This book takes place at the present time but its roots are in the school days of the four protagonists when they were adolescents.  The revelations of events of those days come through the memories of Isa.   She is a lawyer currently on maternity leave with her first child, Freya.  The other members of the group are headed by Kate, an artist, who still lives in the vicinity of the school; Fatima is now a doctor and Thea works in a casino.  They forged a bond when they shared two rooms in a rather remote tower location of the school from which they had access to the roof and to the fire escapes leading dizzyingly to the ground.  Each had their own demons - for Isa this was the impending death from serious illness of her mother and her feeling of rejection by her father.   Among the rather antisocial activities of the four was a game referred to as The Lying Game which involved persuading others of the veracity of outrageous lies. 

The four girls were very different and have developed their lives in very different directions but their fear about a dark secret in their shared past is palpable as they return to the spooky mill gradually being overwhelmed by the water - Kate still lives here.  The story develops slowly, perhaps too slowly as layers of secrets are revealed.  The cause of Kate’s ‘I need you!’ message was the discovery of a human bone buried in the mud on the sea-bank.   The place has a creepy fascination and plays a role beyond the need for background.  Tension vital to such a thriller is rather too slowly built - the characters returning to London at intervals doesn’t help.  Isa remains the dominant character among the three who have returned at Kate’s call.  Eventually the full murky explanation breaks on the hapless heads of women who have suffered from these fears and regrets which they have tried to bury over the years.  Cathartic it is but since this happens very near the tale’s end it needs more explanation afterwards in its effects on the quartet.   Other characters appear but they are mostly shadowy compared to these four - a few in the village are sinister, sometimes without real explanations given for the depth of their malevolence.  I suppose the basic point in the book is the corrosiveness of a secret; one that is as destructive as this one.

This is Ruth Ware’s third book following In a Dark, Dark Wood, and The Woman in Cabin 10.



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