"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
While some books languish on my bedside table, largely untouched for weeks and weeks because the pull of Hulu is stronger than my desire to dive back into the plot, others barely touch a solid surface from start to finish.
This book was one of the latter.
“I had no idea the part that Ambrose would play in our lives, and we in his, or how the ripples of our meeting would go on reverberating down the years.”
- The Lying Game
Just like these ripples, youth is temporary.
And it can feel like the ramifications of the mistakes you inevitably make in these formative years will be equally temporary.
For the four friends central to the plot of this novel, these ramifications are far from fleeting.
The plot starts strong, with the protagonist receiving a late-night text from a friend she hasn’t seen in years.
Three simple words.
I need you.
This alone is enough to propel her into action.
Ware builds the suspense masterfully from here, revealing bits and pieces, spacing it out just enough to keep you satiated but still thirsty for more.
As the plot unfolds, it envelops the reader, making for a truly satisfying read.
Full disclosure - I’m predisposed to like this book as I have an affinity for all things English. Small things – like the fact that the protagonist got mushy peas as a side at the chip shop – mean a great deal to me.
Aside from the strong plot – which is in and of itself enough to earn a solid recommendation from me – what made this book really special was not just that it was set in England, but that the author so thoroughly explored the setting.
I could feel the cool breeze off of the salt water.
I could hear the surf lapping at the shores surrounding the mill – threatening to swallow it – as high tide rolls in.
Her use of language and overall descriptiveness was truly stellar.
And this, to me, represents amazing growth from this author. In her first book In a Dark, Dark Wood, we had a similarly promising setting – a secluded cabin nestled in the woods. However, in this first venture, the setting wasn’t described as robustly.
Similarly, in her second book The Woman in Cabin 10, Ware sets the bulk of the action on a ship at sea but definitely doesn't capture the capriciousness of the ocean as effectively as she does here.
(Clearly, Ware has an affinity for settings in which the characters are trapped or cut off in some way… whatever… it’s not broke, don’t fix it.)
For all of the energy put into establishing the setting, however, I’m surprised that Ware didn’t dedicate a little more attention to establishing backstories – as so much of the plot really depends on the strength of relationships formed over a decade prior.
While we did see a handful of flashbacks, shedding some light on the lives of the protagonist and her three friends, we didn’t see enough of this, IMO.
This is really quite a shame, I think. Were the book to have included two or three more flashbacks – a little more information on the relationship that the protagonist once shared with her friend’s step brother Luc, for example – I have no doubt that this would have ended up a five cocktail read for me.
As it stands, despite this weakness, this is by far Ware’s strongest effort yet. It’s as if she’s growing as an author in front of her readers’ eyes, and it’s a delight to watch.
I enthusiastically recommend this book, particularly for anglophiles, and give it 4 out of 5 cocktails.
Ruth Ware has become one of my must-read authors. Which authors do you voraciously follow? Tell me in the comments below.
Am I reading another book set in England? Maybe, maybe not. But you can find out, here.