The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 25th 2017 by Gallery/Scout Press (first published June 15th 2017)

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal 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, and Isabel—receive the text they had 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 fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


“…years on, people round here still use your names as a kind of salacious cautionary tale…”

It’s rare that I stumble upon a read as gripping and as raw as this one was. And, it was not an outright or vulgar kind of raw—no, that wouldn’t really be the English way, now would it?—but Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game was something arguably so much better, because it didn’t lean on outright shock, melodrama and over-the-top confrontations. No, here the rawness is in the imagery, a true reader’s delight, because it pulled at the senses and plucked at our moral strings in unpredictable ways, in ways that were altogether unexpected when I picked up this novel.

Here, the reader will peep behind the closed doors of a partially secluded English home at the edge of a reach, a place where the water laps at the very door of the home in high tide just as danger and uncertainty laps at their feet from the moment they receive Kate’s SOS text: I need you. Once a place of refuge and harbor, the Reach has turned into a silent stomping ground for their greatest fears and will forever be a magnet of both dread and longing for each of the women in this sisterhood. Kate, Thea, Fatima and Isa share a secret that bonds them together tighter than blood ever could. And it starts and ends with the Reach.

The gentle suspense here was wonderful, but even it was heightened and magnified like a fly under a magnifying glass by the camaraderie that held these four unlikely friends together nearly 20 years after that fateful night—you could feel their anxieties, mistrust and the burn of their lies scorching your very skin as you read on. Ware swirled so much unexpected goodness into these pages that I was amazed at her deftness and insight. This glimpse into their world was so much more than just that—it was the peeling back of the layers of humanity within ourselves and at the lengths that we will go to protect one of our own.

The very act of peeling seemed to be almost a metaphorical foundation: the peeling away of clothes wet from the waters of the Reach, of skin around ragged fingernails chewed nearly to the quick, of secrets from the truth they’d all stood on as their foundation for years. And, too, within these pages you’ll find little nuggets, like a subtle commentary on the cultural insensitivity Muslims face every day (“What do you think it means? If you think it means that she’s using that head scarf as a bandage, then yes, that’s what I mean. It’s great that Allah’s forgiven you…but I doubt the police will take that as a plea bargain.”) the bond of family—blood and otherwise—and a true sense of setting and surroundings: It gives the whole place a melancholy air, like those sultry southern American towns, where the Spanish moss hangs thick from the trees, swaying in the wind. The town of Salten was embedded in true English culture, making the characters all leap to life on the pages, the values of this tight-knit society playing an important role in the unfolding of events. The Lying Game managed to be about so much more than lying—though those moments of actual “game play” were delightful, fun, frisky and filled with all of the carefreeness of youth that we all remember, that we all yearn to hold on to even now. It was also about the grip of a parent’s love and protection of their children, small town scandal and the whisper of child sexual abuse.

How dare you judge me? I do what I have to do to sleep at night. So do you, apparently. How about you respect my coping mechanisms and I’ll respect yours?

Ruth Ware gave her readers a phenomenal roller coaster of twists and turns. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would be happy to read more from this author any day! The setting was palpable, the sisterhood and kinship of these women SO relatable. These women felt real; their faults and growth felt real and it made me want to follow them throughout these 300+ pages. The camaraderie was palpable, lifelike, believable and touching. There was no bow-tie happy ending here and I respected that, yearned for that, in fact. Ware had the guts to not put a ribbon on it for us, and her readers can only revere her for that. I loved every moment of reading this novel and I’m definitely a Ruth Ware fan from here on out. The Lying Game easily earned itself a very well-deserved and rarely given 5 stars. *****

The Lying Game easily earned itself a very strong 4 stars. ****

(I’ve downgraded this review from a 5* to a very strong 4* read, because the 5* nagged at me. I reserve that for the absolutely breath-taking works of writing, and this was not quite that, though it was exceptionally well done!)

Image resultRuth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.



Southern Fried Karma Press


Padmore Culture Magazine

6 thoughts on “The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

  1. Man, this novel made me so so so angry as I got into reading the later chapters. I might be alone in this but I thought Isa treated Owen like absolute garbage, yet the entire time she played the victim and acted so self-righteous about the whole thing.

    She is angry when he leaves for one night after a heated argument without saying where he is going, but she can’t believe that he is upset with her when she takes off at a moments notice for a number of days without any real explanation of where she is going and what she is doing. She even says “f*ck you” to him as she is walking out the door holding their child.

    There is ample evidence that she is probably cheating on him with Luc, (flowers, hand written note, nude paintings of her) but she is furious when he accuses her of having an affair, even after she refuses/is unable to explain away any of the damning evidence. Also, she almost does cheat on him with Luc (but it’s okay of course b/c it didn’t really happen, even though it totally would have happened if not for Kate being a total creep).

    When Owen sends Isa the e-mail of Luc’s criminal record she is so anrgy that she crushes her phone. She claims that Owen has betrayed her trust by insinuating that she is having an affair. That is actually insane. She has already betrayed Owen’s trust by outright lying to him about what is really going on!

    The argument that she couldn’t tell Owen the truth because it isn’t only her secret to tell is nonsense. If she really trusted him she would also trust him to not tell anyone else. The argument that she couldn’t tell him because she wanted to protect him from the truth is also nonsense. She has been living the past 17 years in mental anguish because of a lie that Kate told her about the nature of Ambrose’s death… in order to protect her from the truth.

    The real reason that she won’t tell Owen the truth is because she is afraid that he will be so upset with her that he will end their relationship. This is a pretty damn selfish reason if nothing else. She betrays his trust in order to stay in a relashionship with him, and then she has the audacity to claim that he has betrayed her.

    She even goes so far as to expect an apology from Owen, all while she has absolutely no plans at all of apologizing to him for the web of lies that she has been weaving. It is completely justified for Owen to think that she is sleeping with Luc. The only evidence to support the fact that she isn’t having an affair with this man lies solely in her internal dialog, which she never once vocalizes to Owen.

    She thinks to herself on the train that there is no way that she could be having an affair since: she has a low libido, she feels far too strong of a connection to their child, and she is ashamed of her post-childbirth body. First of all, Owen can’t read your damn mind dude, and second of all, why should Owen even believe these things to be true? He knows that she is lying about what is going on, so why wouldn’t he expect that she is also lying about something like her libido or her self-esteem? It’s a pretty reasonable thing for him to think that she might have a low libido around him because she has been seeing Luc behind his back.

    It’s downright childish for Isa to lie to Owen and then be angry at him for not trusting her. Like, come on, this isn’t kindergarten. You have to act like a damn adult and treat your partner like an adult, you don’t get to pick and choose. If you choose to lie to Owen then you don’t get to be angry when he isn’t trusting of you, if you tell him the truth and he still doesn’t believe you THEN you get to be angry. She is so incredibly self-centered to believe that Owen has no right to be upset with her or to assume the worst. She ran off with his damn child without any real reason given!!! How did she think he would respond to that?!?

    The worst part about the whole thing is that after all is said and done she didn’t learn a damn thing. The whole conundrum started because of her and her friends’ constant lies. At the end of the novel she decides that in order to be a better mother and a better woman, in the future she will TELL EVEN MORE LIES to Freya and Owen. What kind of logic is that?!?

    In the last sentence of the last chapter she says that she will lie about the fact that she doesn’t love Owen, in order to stay in a relashionship with him and to give Freya a normal childhood. Really Isa? Come on. Didn’t you learn anything from this? Didn’t you just learn first-hand about the pain that is caused by telling lies to the people closest to you? How do you actually expect this to end well for Owen or Freya? God, if you don’t love the man then cut him loose.

    Sometimes it’s better to tell the truth, even if the truth hurts.


    1. Derek, you definitely make a lot of great points here! While this was an intricately woven novel, I’m not sure that Ware considered all of these angles, and, if she did, I think she wanted her reader to draw their own conclusions about the characters as you have. One of the reasons that I enjoyed this novel so much is because these characters were ALL seriously flawed. I absolutely hate unrealistically perfect characters, situations, and motivations. But though not all of the characters here experienced growth–that’s a fact of life, and that’s what I appreciated here. We don’t all learn from all of our life situations. Sometimes, we continue making the same mistakes over and over again. That’s human. The angst that you felt for Owen is a human emotion. It seems like you may have been in a situation similar to Owen’s at some point in life and it’s because of that that you’re able to have such sharp insight into it. That’s the other great thing about this novel and about reading in general–our own experiences in life shape how we feel about the characters and what we take from the novel. Isa may not have emerged a well-rounded character in the end–she may even have been flat out wrong and hurtful–but that that’s a human truth that happens in real life, and at least Ware was able to capture that without sugar coating and bow tying it. That takes guts if not skill. What do you think?


  2. Excellent review! This sounds fantastic, can’t wait to pick up a copy 🙂 I have heard of her other work, so might have to check that out as well.


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