Book Review: The Lying Game

Even by mystery fiction standards, Ruth Ware's The Lying Game is a slow, lumbering affair. Don't get me wrong, the writing is great, but for the most part nothing ever happens. All we get instead is a retelling of a chain of events that culminate in a group of four friends (un)knowingly covering up what's murder disguised as a suicide. ("United we stand,' I say, and then I wish I hadn't, because the unspoken final half of the saying hangs in the air, like a silent echo," goes the line at one point.) It's amply clear Ware is aiming for a Donna Tartt-like The Secret History vibe with all that exclusive clique thing blended with plot points taken from her own In a Dark, Dark Wood, but the end result isn't half as interesting.

Nor are the central characters fully realised, and it seems utterly baffling that the 'close' friends who had spent less than a year together at a boarding school and subsequently remained out of touch for years would leave everything at the drop of a hat on the basis of one simple text message for help. And to top it all, the crux of the mystery feels so contrived and forced it's hard to buy it even for a second. That they were habitual liars notwithstanding, what's more puzzling is that their "story" is believed when all is revealed in an underwhelming climax. Ware toys with a great idea, that of a story of four liars who are eternally trapped in the lying game they were notorious for ("TELL A LIE, STICK TO YOUR STORY, DON'T GET CAUGHT, NEVER LIE TO EACH OTHER, KNOW WHEN TO STOP LYING," so goes the rules), but I can't help but be disappointed in the outcome.