The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
…I am thinking about how, however much we struggled to be free, this is how it always ends, the four us, skewered together by the past.
Why didn’t I realize that a lie can outlast any truth, and that in this place people remember?
I was so excited to receive an ARC of The Lying Game after finishing Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 last week. The Woman in Cabin 10 was such a fantastic read that I knew I needed to read Ware’s other two books as soon as possible.
The Lying Game is not the page turning, heart pounding read of The Woman in Cabin 10. Yes, as many reviewers pointed out, this book isn’t The Woman in Cabin 10, but it certainly outshines most of the mysteries I’ve read by a long shot. It’s gorgeously written, and involves a luscious and mysterious setting with a backdrop of a boarding school. While The Woman in Cabin 10 kept me on the edge of my seat, The Lying Game is a long slow burn, one that keeps you guessing with every page. The book is a different kind of thriller, one that spends a much more time sketching out the motivations and backgrounds of its characters. I believe Ware did this to build up the suspense, to make the reader question every word the characters utter. After all, this book is entitled The Lying Game for a reason.
The plot revolves around four women who were close friends at a remote boarding school for girls. The boarding school is regarded as a “last stop” for most of its boarders, as many of them have been booted out of other schools. Isa, the main character, finds her way to it when her father feels incapable of taking care of her due to her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. Fatima, who quickly becomes Isa’s friend, is sent to the school because her parents are spending time abroad in Pakistan as doctors. The other two girls, Kate and Thea, are a year older than Isa and Fatima and are troublemakers. They run into Isa and Fatima while riding a train to the school, and immediately take them under their wings (for better or worse).
Thea and Kate are notoriously known for lying to everyone but each other. Feeling displaced and lonely, Isa and Fatima cling to Thea and Kate, copying their malicious behavior and agreeing to carry out their requests to lie and tease classmates. Soon Thea, Kate, Isa, and Fatima form a clique, one that other girls in the school regard with hatred and envy. On the weekends, the girls escape to Kate’s house known as “The Mill,” which is situated on a beautiful river known by the girls as “The Reach.” They spend countless hours frolicking in The Reach’s warm water, to the point that they begin sneaking out of their boarding school to spend an inordinate amount of time there.
Kate’s father, Ambrose, lives at The Mill, and also teaches at the boarding school. Thea, Isa, and Fatima see Ambrose as a father-figure and friend, a relationship that soon attracts the attention of a number of teachers and students at the boarding school. What is going on between the girls and Ambrose? Why are they spending so much time there?
A catastrophic event takes place at The Mill that results in Thea, Isa, Kate, and Fatima’s expulsion from the school, one that will also have a ripple effect in the girls’ adult lives. The book follows Isa as she attempts to understand what happened at The Mill on that fateful day, to make things right and be able to live her life free from the guilt and anxiety that has plagued her since her teens.
I love Ware’s gift for storytelling and her ability to weave a mystery without relying on cliches. I also loved the side story of Isa trying to grapple with being a new mother, and learning how to walk the fine line between preserving your pre-parenthood identity and autonomy and being a good mother and parent. Here is one of the many gems of quotes about this struggle: “Freya’s cry is like a hook in my flesh, pulling me inexorably across the darkened marsh.”
I can’t wait to read Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and hope she keeps churning out these fabulous mysteries!
Thank you to the author, Ruth Ware, Gallery/Scout Press, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of The Lying Game.
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