The text message is just three words: I need you.
Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her now.
Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did.
At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?
And how much can you really trust your friends?
*Thank you to the publisher, Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
This is my first Ruth Ware novel and it certainly won’t be the last. It was not as thrilling as I expected, some would even say it’s slow and boring, but it is surely well-written. And while it is definitely a slow burn, it didn’t put me off. If anything, I was engrossed. The story opens to someone finding what seems to be human remains on the beach. Followed by Isa Wilde receiving a text message with just three words: I need you. It comes from Kate. A friend she met at a boarding school seventeen years ago. And despite not talking to each other for years, Isa rushed over to Salten along with her 6-month-old baby. Just like she expected, Kate sent the same message to their other friends, too, Thea and Fatima. And just like her, they dropped everything and head over to Salten as well. But Kate doesn’t only need them, they may also have to give their statements to the police about the dead body that was discovered. And if that happens, they have to tell the same story. It won’t be that much of a problem. They had a lot of practice in telling lies. They used to play the Lying Game when they were at school. A game where they have to convinced the people around them of whatever lies they tell. Only, they can never lie to each other. Now that their past is catching up to them, secrets are also starting to unravel and it looks like one of them is telling a lie on what really happened that fateful day that changed the course of their lives.
Like I’ve said, this book is a slow burn and took a really long time to pick up. Yet it kept me absorbed. There’s a dark mood looming the entire time I was reading it brought up by the atmospheric setting. It is a character-driven novel and I find the characters interesting enough but there’s some that I wish was fleshed out a little more. Like Ambrose, Kate’s father, for instance. I also feel like the friendship between the four girls wasn’t explored deeper. I get that they had a close bond for like a year or two, that they spent together at the boarding school. And it was supposed to make their bond stronger by the secret that they were forced to keep when they were 15. Only, they drifted apart and even lose communication for 17 years. Can the friendship really be the same after all those years of not talking to each other? Thus, it was a little hard for me to believe that they can just drop everything without even knowing what is happening for someone they hadn’t seen in years. Isa, as the main character, is okay but she can be frustrating, even irrational, for most of the time. I can never understand her choices and the way she treated the father of her child and how she’s risking everything she has. What I can understand, though, is what one can do to protect someone they love, whether it be your friend or children.
The story’s been building up right from the start for what feels like a shocking secret. The mystery that lies about what really happened all those years ago kept me flipping the pages but once they were revealed, it was a bit disappointing. I didn’t see it coming but I wasn’t blown away by it either. I was expecting for something more sinister after that slow build up. Even the ending wasn’t that satisfying and even left me with few unanswered questions. All in all, a solid mystery novel.