Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Lying Game

Rate this book
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).

370 pages, Hardcover

First published June 15, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ruth Ware

23 books35.9k followers
Ruth 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.

Find her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ruthwarewriter, on facebook at www.facebook.com/ruthwarewriter or via her website - www.ruthware.com

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
26,533 (15%)
4 stars
63,429 (36%)
3 stars
62,207 (36%)
2 stars
16,977 (9%)
1 star
3,484 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,782 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
814 reviews12.7k followers
June 24, 2017

*Unpopular opinion alert*: This book didn't work for me.

The Lying Game is a slow burning psychological thriller about four friends who are bound together by lies.

“A lie can outlast any truth.”

When 15 year old Isa Wilde is sent to coastal boarding school, Salten, she quickly befriends Kate, Thea, and Fatima. The girls participate in a game, called “The Lying Game,” which isolates their classmates and causes local townies to hate them.


After a horrible event occurs leading to the expulsion of the liars, the game ends but the girls never stop lying. They make a pact to never share what really happened, and keep the secret buried for 17 years.

Switch to the present, and Isa is a 32 year old attorney living in London with her newborn daughter, Freya, and partner, Owen. She’s lost contact with the other girls, but when she receives a text from Kate simply stating, “I need you,” she drops everything and runs to her friend’s side. Kate, Isa, Thea and Fatima reunite, desperate to keep their secret under wraps. It soon becomes apparent that one of them has broken perhaps the most pivotal rule: NEVER LIE TO EACH OTHER.

Told from Isa’s perspective, the narrative switches back and forth between the past and present. Isa shares a lot about how things used to be, and while the narrative shifts to the past we only get small glimpses of the friends time together, which hindered my ability to really get a full picture of their friendship. This is one of the reasons I had trouble with this book. I also found Isa’s voice stifling.

The Lying Game isn’t bad, it’s just not great. While it's very well-written, there was something lacking for me. Often, I was bored--but this might be because I figured out the mystery super early on.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,540 reviews12.9k followers
August 6, 2017
Four high school friends now in their thirties reunite after a terrible shared secret threatens to emerge and shatter their peaceful lives. But what they thought was a shared secret turns out to be a lie - one of them isn’t telling the truth.

I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, and was disappointed with the poor follow-up, last year’s The Woman in Cabin 10, so I hoped The Lying Game would be a return to form; it’s not. The Lying Game is awful - looks like Ruth Ware is a one-hit wonder!

This non-thriller horribly takes its time, ambling towards the reveal of the mystery at the novel’s core, along the way introducing us to its cast of uninteresting nobodies in a small, dreary coastal town. The “dark secret” is underwhelming to say the least, particularly as it’s built up to be something utterly shocking. I guess what they did is morally questionable but I thought it was going to be much, much worse than it was.

Things don’t improve in the second half of the book. Ware wastes more time on the impossibly mundane life of Isa, our narrator, who has boring quarrels with her husband - this, like too many passages clogging the narrative (what did having a baby add exactly?), has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING, I just kept thinking GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT! - as the pathetic “plot” shuffles towards a dull final twist that I couldn’t have cared less about at that point, and then the whole disaster is wrapped up.

It’s never really clear what exactly the point was. The four friends gather and talk about what they did but don’t really do anything further - it’s not just a lack of any character’s discernible motivation, it’s a total absence of direction which only accentuates the turgid pacing of the book. A menacing figure, Luc, is introduced but other than wondering whether or not he killed a sheep (another go-nowhere subplot), it’s not clear at all what his purpose is - his presence only makes sense with the final twist so up til then he feels like another superfluous addition to this overlong novel.

The mystery itself is flimsy at best. It was only a mystery to us because the details are slowly parcelled out - if it was revealed at once you’d be able to poke holes in its flawed construction, as the main character does once she begins to think about it. But why wouldn’t she have thought about it at the time or at any time in the 16 or so years since it happened!? It’s such contrived drivel.

No aspect of The Lying Game was interesting or worth reading. It was a supremely tedious, unremarkable and unsatisfying novel that’s put me off of picking up anything by Ruth Ware in the future. I highly recommend her only good novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which is exciting and fun, though I’d steer well clear of her other books.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
May 14, 2021
2.5 stars
Here, in this house the ghosts of our past are real
Isabel, Kate, Fatima, and Thea were inseparable during their boarding school days.

They had a game - a wild, hilarious and crazy game - that bonded these girls together.

The biggest rule? Stick to your lie.
A lie can outlast any truth.
They awarded points based off of the most outrageous lie, who believed them and if they ever had to give up the truth.

They were young, and wild, and free...until that night.

Something happened that night... something that irrevocably changed their futures and everything about them.

Now, years later, they can barely look each other in the eye but if one of them calls for help, they all come running.

Because some lies...aren't meant to be forgotten.
And it’s a story about hope—about how we have to go on, after the unbearable has happened. Make the most of our lives, for the sake of the people who gave theirs.
Overall, it was good, but not that good.

So, for the most part, I enjoyed this one. It was fun to piece together the puzzle and Ware scattered enough clues to keep me interested in the plot.

However (and this is a BIG however), this is the third novel of Ware's where the plot completely circles around hiding the truth for no apparent reason...in fact, if the characters would just tell each other the truth then there would literally be no more plot.

Poof. Nothing.

But instead, they all have to lie, lie and lie some more which ends up stretching a relatively uncomplicated secret into a full-length novel.

It's just frustrating that Ware is leaning on this lying crutch for the third novel in a row.

And (for some reason), we are constantly using this hugely (and uselessly) poetical language throughout the novel - which makes everything three times longer!
I close my eyes, listening to the sound of the past, imagining myself back into the skin of the girl I once was, a girl whose friends were still around her, whose mistakes were ahead of her...
Oh good lawd girl, get to the point already!

Audiobook Comments
Read by Imogen Church and am I the only one struggling with the audio? Church provides an excellent narration...but seems to use the same tone/inflection for every Ware novel she reads. It's so similar that I actually forget which novel I'm in!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,607 reviews10.7k followers
September 6, 2023

Meg's Ruth Ware Ratings:

1. The Turn of the Key: 5-stars
2. The Lying Game : 4.5-stars
3. The It Girl: 4.5-stars
4. One by One: 4-stars
5. Zero Days: 4-stars
6. The Death of Mrs. Westaway: 4-stars
7. In a Dark, Dark Wood: 3.5-stars
8. The Woman in Cabin 10: 3-stars


When Isa Wilde receives a text message from her dear friend, Kate, simply stating, 'I need you', Isa packs her bag, her infant daughter and boards a train. No questions asked.

Her destination, the remote, idyllic coastal town of Salten.

There she is reunited with her ole' boarding school chums, Kate, Fatima and Thea; think Mean Girls but meaner.

Recently, a local Salten woman out walking her dog came across a bone, most likely human, and Kate is petrified of what the repercussions of this find may be.

She calls her old friends because they are the only ones, besides herself, who know the truth behind the recently discovered bone.

The ladies have a secret.

A dark secret that they have been hiding for many years, but as we all know, secrets very seldom stay buried forever.

I have previously read two of Ware's books, The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

I can easily say I enjoyed this one the most out of the three. I think basically it boils down to the fact that boarding school stories are my jam.

The fact that this had a present timeline woven together with flashbacks of boarding school days, was perfect for me.

I love boarding schools, I love mean girls (fictionally) and I love secrets that won't stay secret. It was like this story was made for me. I know it won't be for everyone, I can tell that from the ratings...

After I finished The Woman in Cabin 10, I took all of Ware's other books off my TBR, so I am super glad that I, on a whim, decided to give this one a try.

Lesson Learned: Never give up on an author, every work is different and everything deserves an honest try.
Profile Image for Susie.
236 reviews16 followers
February 12, 2023
If I hear one more thing about that ridiculous baby...

I really loved Ruth Ware's first two books. This one had the potential to be right up there with those first two, but I suspect it suffered from rushing to publication. The narrative is terribly disjointed and disruptive to the reader. There's so much build up to things that aren't "A HA!" moments in any way. I predicted every reveal, so when it was finally laid out my brain said "Well, duh" and thought the characters dimwitted. By the end of this reading, I rooted for the main character to die or be the killer. Highly disappointed.

Let's talk about Freya and Isa. First, Isa's a nutter. She has a completely unhealthy attachment to her child, while simultaneous putting her baby in the direct line of danger whenever she has the chance. I laughed out loud at some of the situations she puts this kid into. Apparently, it's BYOBTAMS "Bring Your Own Baby To a Murder Scene" weekend. Who takes their kid with them when they have a perfectly good parental unit available at home? Then let's think about her leaving the kid with a sitter. That's not weird. What is weird is leaving her baby she can't live without in a house that is falling into the ocean, while a sheep gutter is wandering around. How was this baby better off with her than at home with her father?

Also, Freya's constant squawking, crying, yanking, grasping, wailing, screeching, and feeding makes her seem like a baby you would want a break from. I bet her bury-the-body set of buddies was thinking "We said we needed you to come, not your stupid boob sucking vampire baby." I wonder if Thea is actually a drunk or just needed a good stiff one to deal with being trapped in a falling down house with that demon spawn?

And what's up with taking the stroller for miles of walks in the marshlands of coastal Great Britain? What kind of all-terrain pram is this woman using? Why won't she get in a car with Luc but she still let him carry both herself and her baby across a falling down bridge over the freaking sea? It's like she WANTS to be miserable and let this kid disappear in a strange "blame it on the Reach" type of deal.

Let's not forget the plot holes so big you could drive a truck through them. Also, why was Luc hooking up with Isa on the couch and Kate was the creeper upstairs but then it never gets brought up again. Why was Luc sending roses to her? Why are none of these things ever resolved? Why is Owen a bad guy for pointing out Isa is super gross about her baby, the obsessive breastfeeding, and getting roses from randos? Why is Isa terrified to be in town, then walks on foot with her baby to town. She's terrified of the guy that works at the bar, so she goes to the bar to breast feed her vampire baby that eats constantly. She's terrified of Luc, so she hangs out with him at the table in the bar until it's last call, and then goes home in the dark with him to hook up after carrying the baby over the drink....holy crap I'm exhausted by that sentence.

I have a feeling the Women in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood were so successful the publishers rushed the author. This could have been a really fantastic and tight thriller. Instead, it's a total mess.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,227 followers
February 12, 2020
“…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 other hidden 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 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!)

**I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Gallery/Scout Press, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**


Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,708 reviews25k followers
July 11, 2017
This is an atmospheric and eerie psychological thriller from Ruth Ware. Take four teenage schoolfriends who set up a group that vies to create the most outlandish lies that they can get others to believe, and what you have is a recipe for potentially horrifying outcomes. This is exactly what the author does, creating two time lines when something terrible happens that results in the four girls being expelled from their school, although this does not stop them from lying. Their one proviso is that they must tell the truth to one another, however, when you specialise in lying, that may be a bit of a tall order. In the present, the four friends have not seen each other in years. Isa is now a 32 year old lawyer, with a partner, Owen, and baby daughter, Freya, she is a woman with everything to lose. She gets a text from Kate saying that she needs her. The narrative is delivered from Isa's perspective, filling us in on their past and what is now happening in the present.

Isa rushes to Kate, and they are joined by Thea and Fatima, they are tense and disturbed at the possibility that the secret that they have kept for seventeen years is about to emerge. We are slowly taken back to their schooldays at Salten, a boarding school. We see their relationships build, and how their group was set up. Their Lying Game, which seemed so much fun at the time, creates divisions and isolates others, and the locals are none too happy either. Then the awful event occurs and they lie their way through that. Are their secrets from the past now set to emerge? This is a beautifully written novel with both suspense and twists. However, whilst we do get a clear idea of the characters of Kate and Isa, we are left more in the dark about Thea and Fatima, which is a shame. A great read that focuses on the issues of love, deception, trust and relationships. However, whilst I derived enjoyment from reading it, it did have too many strong echoes of her book, In a Dark Dark Wood. I hope the author does not keep repeating the same motifs in her future books and finds new territory to explore. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,126 reviews3,709 followers
December 14, 2017
It’s The game. It’s the lying game.

Rule one: Tell a lie
Four young girls all sent by their parents to a boarding school for various issues. They quickly form strong bonds, becoming inseparable. Their favorite form of amusement? The lying game.

Rule two: Stick to your story
How far can you take a lie? Everyone has to stay on the same page – or it will all unravel!

Rule three: Don’t get caught
Years later they’re all brought back to the small town near the boarding school, where their biggest lie is about to be exposed to all. And they aren’t young girls anymore. There is so much more on the line now.

Rule four: Never lie to each other
Can the four women really trust each other? Who has the most to lose? Is everything they’ve believed to be the truth since boarding school be a lie?

Rule five: Know when to stop lying
Now with families and careers in jeopardy, it’s time to re-evaluate the game.

The premise of this book sounded fantastic. With all the blatant ‘lying’ going on, I was hopeful for something unexpected. Unfortunately this one just fell flat for me. I had difficulty connecting with the characters and actually found a few of them downright annoying! Just too slow without any real surprises or reward along the way.

There are a lot of mixed reviews for this one, so if it’s on your list give it a try! It might work for you! (I hope it does!!).

The best part for me - my reading experience with my Traveling Sisters Brenda and Susanne! (And that’s no lie!!)
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
617 reviews20.5k followers
August 29, 2017
A story of female friendship, lies and deceit.

This one had my heart pumping till the very end and I'm glad to see Ruth Ware delivering again.

The book tells the story of four friends who met in a boarding school when they were teenagers. They played "the lying game" until something happened and they were withdrawn from the school. Seventeen years later the last lie they told has come to haunt them. 

The novel takes place in London and also in an English coastal town. The story is narrated by Isa Wilde, one of the four friends and alternates between the present and the past.

(image source)

I felt the tone was very gothic because of the descriptions and actions at the end. Also, the book is more character than plot-driven and is engaging, riveting, and chilling.

Overall, I loved this book ❤  and recommend it to all.

Review posted on blog.

FINAL NOTE: whenever I pictured the English boarding school then Hogwarts came to mind. Don't ask me why, it just did.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,076 reviews59k followers
June 27, 2017
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware is a 2017 Gallery Scout publication.

This latest thriller, by Ruth Ware, is an all- consuming, riveting tale, full of mind games and edgy suspense.

Isabel, Kate, Fatima, and Thea became fast friends while attending Salten boarding school, as teenagers. They began ‘the lying game’ to liven up their stay at the school, garnering them a terrible reputation on campus. But, ironically, their practice of lying came in handy, when they found themselves involved in a scandal that forced them out of the school.

Now, as adults, the women have moved on with their lives the best way they can, but they all live in fear of the day they will be summoned back to Salten to answer for their crimes. That day has finally arrived. Isabel, Fatima and Thea all receive a text message from Kate-

‘I need you.’

This story is moody and atmospheric, with a heavy feeling of foreboding percolating in the background. Ware had me on edge right from the start and kept me there until I crossed the finish line.

The consequences of lying are numerous, and we all know that lies cultivate more lies. It’s a vicious cycle. But, it’s especially brutal for Isabel, Kate, Thea, and Fatima, who have all lived with their lies, precariously balanced on a precipice, knowing their dark secret could be discovered at any moment. When it looks like their worst fears are about to be realized, it forces them to polish up their lying skills once again… only this time, it’s not a game.

‘When you define yourself by walls, who’s in, who’s out. The people on the other side of the wall become, not just them, but THEM. The outsiders. The opposition. The enemy.’

Isabel is the narrator of this story, and gives an accounting of the girl’s pasts, and the events of the present that brought them back together after all these years.

“What am I coming to? I am as bad as Kate, haunted by ghosts of the past. But, I remember lying here, one night, long ago, and I have that feeling again, of the record skipping in its groove, tracing and retracing the same voices and tracks.”

With her stable home life at stake, Isabel has a great deal to lose if the truth were ever exposed.
But, all the characters are complex and flawed, nervous, and jumpy, and under an equal amount of pressure. But, with their reputations preceding them, it is impossible to completely trust any of them.

“A wall, after all, isn’t just about keeping others out. It can also be for trapping people inside.’

I enjoyed the setting in this one, the guessing game, the dramas, confessions, and the surprising twists, all of which are important for any psychological thriller, but this book almost has a Gothic undertone, which of course, I found very appealing.

The suspense is mostly derived from the foreshadowing of doom, and is much more psychological than thriller, if that makes sense. Ware’s style, after only two novels, won her the moniker of ‘the Agatha Christie of our time’, but, this one may seem like a kinder, gentler version of Ware, who seems to have altered her style of writing just a little bit with this one.

This one is not quite as gritty as her previous novels have been, but I liked the more in -depth characterizations and the clever way she creates long lasting suspense that hangs in the air like a mist that refuses to burn off, becoming murkier and more intense as the story proceeds. But, never fear, there are still lots of surprises and twists that will catch you off guard.

Overall, this is another very solid performance from Ware, and I enjoyed this one, especially appreciating the tone, which is very much the style of suspense I enjoy most.

4 stars
Profile Image for Kathryn.
169 reviews292 followers
July 11, 2017
Oh Ruth Ware, I expected more from you. Last year was all about The Woman in Cabin 10, which blurbs compared to Gone Girl and I’m sorry, but NO. I digress….finding The Woman in Cabin 10 a decent enough read, I was looking forward to seeing what Ms. Ware had up her sleeve next. I didn’t need another blockbuster novel, and in fact, preferred the follow-up to be quieter, but perhaps more finely tuned. I acknowledge that writers must be under immense pressure when penning their first story after a runaway hit. I get it. And The Lying Game sounded promising. After human remains are discovered, a group of women are summoned to their former stomping grounds by a mysterious message, hurriedly scribbled by the fourth member of their formerly tight quartet. A quartet that used to engage in The Lying Game, an innocent boarding school pastime that eventually leads to the group’s expulsion and sudden death of the school’s art teacher. Juicy, right??!! WRONG.

With all the pieces in place: interesting premise, good writer, you might think: how could this book fail? But oh how it did. While Ruth Ware’s writing itself remains lovely, The Lying Game might be one of the dullest stories I’ve ever read. AND IT’S A MYSTERY. The primary issue is the book’s entirely too long. It’s bogged down with so much flowery prose and extraneous information that entire sections of the narrative read as pointless AT BEST. And with all that needless hoo-ha, “THE BIG SECRET” the women are keeping, and the narrative’s main drive, get lost. They disappear in endless soliloquies about Salten’s (the village) pastoral scenery (believe me, once you’ve read one such passage, you’ve read them ALL). And then follows the pages upon pages of school-day reminiscing, which yes this is partly a reunion story, but these women are allegedly in imminent danger. WHY AREN’T THEY SCARED? WHY AREN’T THEY PUTTING TOGETHER AN ACTION PLAN? Why aren’t they doing ANYTHING really other than getting drunk & acting ridiculously? DO THEY NOT KNOW THE RULES OF HORROR MOVIES??? How about postponing the girls’ weekend until AFTER you vanquish the psycho killer?

The characters are similarly frustrating. The only person who’s at all developed is our protagonist, Isa. The remaining three women are one-dimensional tropes of the jock, cheerleader, bad girl variety. The women are reduced to personality TYPES rather than fully realized individuals. And in a story that’s supposedly character-driven, having few players to identify with or become interested in decreases overall reader investment.

I'm not saying let's transform this novel into a James Patterson-esque thriller (please for the love of literature, don't). But a balance between actual mystery and pointless description needs to be struck (think: Tana French, Kate Atkinson, Denise Mina). The book reads more like a very tedious drama than a mystery and the characters are boring, which begs the questions WHY AM I READING THIS?

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
315 reviews2,419 followers
December 21, 2017
I'm now caught up on all of Ruth Ware's books! She is one of my favorite writers, yet I'm still waiting to give one of her books a five star rating.

That's how talented she is as a writer, I'm willing to overlook her product output in favor of the gorgeous technical skill she possesses.

The plot of THE LYING GAME is the weakest of Ware's three books. I was frequently bored and zoning out during the book, it really took me awhile to finish it and then, meh...not much more than a beautiful rewrite of Pretty Little Liars in a British accent.

Ware is a master at creating atmosphere, mood and an overall foreboding tone to her mysteries. She may very well be the next Agatha Christie, but I hope she comes up with a compelling plot to go with her first rate writing ability soon!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
September 1, 2018
Traveling Sisters Review by NORMA and LINDSAY!!

4.5 stars!

Lindsay and I have both read all of Ruth Ware’s previous novels and agree that this was definitely our favourite one thus far!

The book was divided into sections from the 5 rules of The Lying Game that the four friends participated in: TELL A LIE, STICK TO YOUR STORY, DON'T GET CAUGHT, NEVER LIE TO EACH OTHER, and KNOW WHEN TO STOP LYING.  As the novel progresses through these five rules you do get a sense of how the game is played.

THE LYING GAME by RUTH WARE is an engrossing, intriguing, steady-paced, and a suspenseful psychological thriller that grabbed our attention right from the very first page and had us reading and guessing right to the very end trying to figure out the secrets lying within the storyline.

RUTH WARE delivers an atmospheric and vivid read here that is written in such a way that completely drew us right into the descriptions of the old, run-down Mill and the dark, creepy, and deserted Reach.  With the strong sense of atmosphere we felt like we were experiencing it right along with all the characters in this book.  The mystery within this story is slowly revealed as it switches back and forth between the past and present and is told in Isa’s perspective which allowed us to be completely absorbed in the character’s lives until the very last page.  

While Lindsay and I were reading and chatting about this one at one point we both picked up on and discussed how we both felt about the strong theme that was emanating within the story here.  We feel that a lot of mothers will especially connect with this novel as there is a strong theme of the mother/child bond and breastfeeding. The main character, Isa Wilde, who narrates this story has a six-month-old baby daughter named Freya who we both absolutely loved and felt that she definitely stole the show for us!  We were both in awe of how well RUTH WARE described in complete perfection the bond between a mother and her newborn child.  These were very touching aspects of the novel and pulled at our heartstrings!

While Lindsay was reading this book, it brought back a lot of memories for her of those sleep-deprived nights and the fond feelings of being a new mother. She could really relate to Isa in so many ways as far as motherhood goes.  

We both really enjoyed the setting in this one, the game, all the drama within, and the strong connection that we felt to Isa was one of the main reasons that we both loved this book so much!  Would recommend!    

All of our Traveling Sister Reads Reviews can be found on our blog:
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,322 followers
August 2, 2017
4.5 stars! This was my favourite Ruth Ware novel yet!!

This suspenseful and secretive story had me hooked from the first page! I loved the characters, storyline and atmosphere. I had the pleasure of reading this one with Norma. It sparked a lot of great conversation along the way. I highly recommend!

To find our full Traveling Sister Read Review, please visit Norma and Brenda's fabulous book blog at:

Profile Image for Holly  B .
849 reviews2,013 followers
November 15, 2017

I really enjoyed this author's previous novel, The Woman in Cabin 10 and was really looking forward to this one.

This book did not work for me and I even had a hard time finishing it. I know many have loved this one and I wish I could have liked it more. I couldn't feel any suspense building and the story just dragged on chapter after chapter. I didn't feel the connections between the four women characters and I found the plot to be predictable and without any thrills.

I do think many people will enjoy this book with the girlfriends and their secret past that comes back to haunt them, but I figured the mystery out early. Give it a try and see what you think. I do like this author and of course I am looking forward to her next novel.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,490 reviews2,712 followers
July 6, 2017
If you've read Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood, then you'll recognise that the essence of the plot here is exactly the same: a group of girls were once close friends, something horrible happened, they went their separate ways and are brought back together again 17 years later; the horrible thing resurfaces, the truth is uncovered. Once again, too, we're in an unusual location, here a dilapidated mill which is sinking under the encroachment of water. What this book lacks, though, that the first one did so well, is characters with individual voices and a sense of humour. With those qualities lacking, this turns into a generic melodrama that lacks credibility.

This supposedly tight-knit group turn out to have known each other for less than a year (they're 15 when they meet, haven't turned 16 when the horrible thing happens and they're separated, and despite not having seen each other for 17 years, when one of them texts the others they instantly drop London jobs, family, life to meet up - heck, my friends can't even co-ordinate drinks in the pub without military-style planning!

Add to that a boring narrator obsessed with how many times a day she has to breast-feed her screaming baby (surely important in real life, duller than dull to read about), characters who are thin stereotypes (the artistic one, the Muslim one, the anorexic one), a plot involving sinister locals and a desperate last-minute 'twist'.

It's a shame as Ware writes more fluently than many commercial authors in this genre but it seems that here she's just re-writing her first success without the elements which made it work: 2.5 stars for a fast, commute read which I was glad to finish.

Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books964 followers
July 17, 2018
A slow-moving I Know What You Did Last Summer premise that does become twisty and intriguing around the halfway point. Unfortunately the characters are so disagreeable that the stakes never feel high. What? That horrible person is actually more horrible? Shocking! Will the stalker kill them all? I hope so! In the end it wasn't all bad, but I'm sure this is Ruth Ware's least impressive effort. Maybe try one of her other books instead?
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,113 followers
June 14, 2020
“Welcome to the Lying Game...Oh, and ten points.”

I blitzed through this!!

Isa, Kate, Fatima and Thea were inseparable as teenagers. All enrolled in the Salten boarding school for girls. They would play ‘The Lying Game’ a game in which they lied to others to see if they would believe them. The more ridiculous the better. One of the main rules though, they never lie to each other.

27 years later the girls have all moved on, living in different places - some with families of their own. But when Kate sends them all a text from Salten - she is the only one who stayed. The girls cannot ignore the text “I need you.” They drop everything and run to Salten.

A body has been found, the police have started asking questions and they all need to get their story straight.

The story was gripping, the girls were all pretty messed up tbh. But I’m used to suspending my disbelief with thrillers as long as they are enjoyable.

As tensions rise, the girls are forced to confront the decisions they made all those years ago and if it comes out now they could lose everything.

4 stars for a fast paced thriller.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
December 10, 2017

3.25 Stars* (rounded down).

Isa Wilde is a married mother of baby Freya, when she receives a text: “I Need You.” She knows exactly what it means. She hasn’t heard from Kate in over 15 years, yet she has been terrified this moment would come. She needs to go to Kate, but she can’t tell her husband Owen the truth. She must lie to him. And so it begins. Again. Thea and Fatima, old friends from school, also received the same text from Kate and all three go to her.

Kate, Thea, Fatima and Isa become fast friends at Salten House. Every spare second outside of school was spent at Kate’s house in Salten, with Kate’s father Ambrose and her stepbrother Luc. They excluded everyone else from their clique. Kate, Thea, Fatima and Isa had a game that they liked to play. They called it “The Lying Game” - which they only played against older girls, powerful girls and teachers, of course. They were despised, thought to be liars.

The rules of the game?:

Rule 1: Tell a lie.
Rule 2: Stick to your story
Rule 3. Don't get caught.
Rule 4. Never lie to each other.
Rule 5. Know when to stop lying.

After a while, somehow, things end up going awry. Ambrose, Kate’s father goes missing. And then the girls get separated, life goes on. Yet they never forgot each other and always knew that their past, their secrets and their lies bound them together.

“The Lying Game” by Ruth Ware started out slow .. it burned like a fire that refused to go out, even though I wished I could stomp on it. This was a Traveling Sister Read with Brenda and Kaceey and all three of us had lots to say about this one. At first I enjoyed it more, but as the story went on and as I thought of it in terms of other stellar mysteries I’ve read as of late, it was obvious how flat this one fell in comparison. There was nothing about the novel that stood out, nothing that grabbed me unlike “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware, which I loved: (I still remember Lo Blacklock and her Maybelline Mascara!).

I loved reading this novel with my Traveling Sisters: Brenda and Kaceey. Thanks for making this read so much fun sisters!

Published on Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter and Instagram on 12.10.17.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
July 30, 2017
3.5 stars. The Lying Game was a mixed bag for me, but on balance I quite liked it. It's told from Isa's perspective. Isa is now in her early thirties with a young baby. She and two others get a text from high school friend Kate -- "I need you" -- and this sends Isa and her three friends into a tailspin back to the village where they went to boarding school when they were 15 years old. The less said the better because in large part the point of this story is how it unfolds. As a narrator, Isa is slow to let the reader know about what happened at school when she was 15 that has left such an emotional scar, and then Isa comes to find out that she doesn't have all the pieces of the puzzle. There's something dark, breathless and melodramatic -- almost gothic -- about how Isa tells her story that pervades the whole book. I wavered between finding the tone immature and just going along with it. At the end of the day, what I liked was that for this kind of quasi thriller, the story seemed original. I didn't know where it was going, and it was relatively morally complex. I cringed at many of the decisions Isa and her friends made at 15 and that Isa makes in her early 30s, but I couldn't stop looking because she had me hooked and I wanted to see what happens next. You wouldn't want to read The Lying Game looking for characters to like or side with. But you might want to read it if you're looking for an entertaining read that doesn't follow what have become some of the usual storylines. But definitely don't read it if you're not into dark melodrama. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,152 reviews57 followers
July 24, 2019
DNF. After about 100 pages, I gave up on this boring, slow, seemingly going nowhere story. Too many other books to give a chance.

The premise sounded good. Four friends bound together by lies and loyalty. An intense secret sure to be revealed. Unfortunately, the suspense wasn't there for me. There was very little action, but lots of description of the landscape. Not having grown up near the water, I couldn't get a vision of the area. It all seemed so bleak and desolate. Was that what the author was going for? I was never really sure. Between that and the slowness of the story, there just wasn't any motivation to keep on going. I enjoyed The Woman in Cabin 10 but this one was a definite miss for me.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,322 reviews2,142 followers
April 14, 2021
I really enjoyed this one. The author captured me on page one and held my interest right to the end. (which was a tad melodramatic but never mind!)

Funnily enough I did not like any of the characters much, except Freya who was a champion. Not many babies put up with what she went through so cheerfully. The idea of The Lying Game itself also left me cold. It seemed a rather cruel game to play on other unsuspecting people. But hey, this is fiction, so I ignored my ethical feelings and just read the book.

So why did I give it four stars?
Because the story was so intriguing, fast paced, and twisted.
Because Isa had many redeeming features and her narrative was interesting.
Because of the red herrings which led me to get the identity of the murderer totally wrong. I always like it when I cannot guess the ending!
Because Ruth Ware writes well and makes reading her books enjoyable.

Definitely worth a read if you enjoy a good psychological thriller.
Profile Image for Nazanin.
1,101 reviews632 followers
June 26, 2017
3.75 Little-Liers Stars

Isa, Kate, Fatima and Thea have met each other at a train station that its destination was Salten House (Somewhere like boarding school). They quickly became best friend. One day something bad happened and they had to make a decision, even though they knew it was a wrong decision. Now after seventeen years they reunited just because of one text:

"I need you."

Yes, the consequences of their decision are now being revealed. They think they know everything about that day but you know in these books nothing is that simple!

My issue with this story was that it was really slow and just the last 40% of it was exciting. The mystery wasn’t that mysterious. Also, I didn’t like the way it ends (About Isa, not the whole story). But the writing was great and that was the thing that I liked about this story and made me enjoy it! the characters were good. The story is told from Isa’s POV, 1st person. It’s a standalone story. Overall, it was a good read for me and I had a good time with it, hope you enjoy it as well!
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,719 followers
May 16, 2020
The Lying Game is the first book I've read by Ruth Ware, but it won't be the last. Published in 2017, this happened to appear on my building's library shelves, so I jumped on it. I'm glad I had a chance to learn more about this author, and if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, you will enjoy this one. Let's dive into the details...

Four ~15ish teens play the lying game. There are rules. They get points. Things get very intense. This all happened in the past, so we really don't know which lie put them over the edge. In current days, a text message unites them again. Just what happened ~17 years ago. By 1/3 thru, we know there was a death. One of the girls' fathers. Seemed like suicide. Only it wasn't. Colleague at their school? One of the girls? A boy who wasn't liked? A stepson who wanted revenge? Exactly how did this all come together?

So... let's start with the negative, as that's not usual for me. I didn't like any the characters. They were all drawn well, and each had a key role... but several felt a bit vague in terms of why they needed to be involved. Isa is the voice whose POV we hear. Kate's father is the one who died. They make sense. The other two girls... not so much. In the end, I get it... and I'm not giving away any spoilers. I'm just saying I think we could've done without these 2 characters based on how the whole story comes together, or at least they could have been combined into 1 single friend. Also... the secret was a little too obvious. We know it's not suicide, and we know one of the main people killed the father, but where were the twists?

Okay... off my soapbox. The language was atmospheric (new word I've seen thrown around a lot lately, so I'll use it too) and flowery. Sometimes it was excessive but it completely made the settings and emotions pop. For those reasons alone, I'll read another Ruth Ware novel, as I really enjoyed picturing the book in my head. I also liked the relationships between various characters. Owen was an awesome father and boyfriend. Isa was so mean to him. True, he jumped to conclusions way too quickly, but she was just effin nuts in the way she treated him sometimes. Girl needed to be given her walking papers if she kept lying and holding secrets. I get she had a bond with friends, but thart was ~17 years ago and you don't see them anymore. He's your baby's father and you say you love him... or do you? Maybe that's the twist being hinted at.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Read 25% in 1 sitting, waited 5 days, then finished the rest in a 2nd sitting. So, it wasn't a 5 to make me unable to do anything but read, but when I jumped back in today, I was hooked. Just wish it was a stronger ending. More to read by this author in the future tho!
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,912 reviews248 followers
July 23, 2017
At the Salten Reach in England, a dog unearths a human bone from the sand, a bone belonging to a body hidden there for nearly twenty years. In the aftermath, an urgent text goes out from one woman to her three friends, saying only: "I need you." And they come running.

Kate, Thea, Fatima and Isa first met at Salten House, a boarding school for girls, when they were fifteen. Kate and Thea had created a 'lying game' with rules and points and all four girls played along:

Rule 1: Tell a lie.
Rule 2: Stick to your story
Rule 3. Don't get caught.
Rule 4. Never lie to each other.
Rule 5. Know when to stop lying.

Of course, they earned the reputation as liars--in school and in the town. Who would believe anything they said?

Kate's father, Ambrose Atagon, was a celebrated local artist who painted coastal landscapes and wildlife and taught art at the school. On weekends, he welcomed the girls to his home where they swam in the sea and were often the subjects of his drawings. His stepson Luc became inseparable with the girls.

Then one night, Ambrose disappeared and embarrassing drawings of the girls reached the hands of the school administrators. To avoid a scandal, the girls and their families agreed for them to leave Salten behind.

For seventeen years, they kept a secret between the four of them but now it looks like their lies and deception may be coming to light.

A character-driven psychological thriller told from Isa's point of view, the story unfolds slowly, as Isa remembers the past and deals with problems in the present. The story picks up the pace in the final quarter as the women face the truth of what really happened so many years ago. Satisfying ending.

So different from The Woman in Cabin 10! I think Ruth Ware's writing skill has grown beyond her previous work and here she has delivered a thriller with more depth. Looking forward to reading her next novel!

I wish to express my gratitude to NetGalley, the author and publisher for the opportunity to read an arc of this book. Many thanks!
September 17, 2017
I enjoyed “In A Dark Dark Wood” and really thought “The Woman In Cabin 10” was great! I was a bit disappointed in “The Lying Game”. While the novel is well written I really didn’t feel that great “tense, exciting” feel of a thriller until perhaps the very last 30 pages. I also didn’t particularly care for the characters in this book. This was really more like a 3.5 for me.

A simple text “I need you” is sent from Kate sent to her three best friends from boarding school, Isa, Fatima and Thea. Within 24 hours each of the three have left their jobs, husbands, kids and rushed to Kate’s side, quite a feat considering all of their involvements. The three young women had been close friends in boarding school, so much so that many of the other students steered clear of them. They were notorious for playing “The Lying Game”, quite simply a test of how each of them could come up with an outlandish lie and then convince as many people as they could that it was true. They usually bailed on the game if things looked like they would be discovered by those in charge. The number one rule of the game however is that they never lie to each other.

During the next few hundred pages we follow what happens as the young women rejoin their friend Kate at her home in a coastal village with a great estuary called “The Reach”; the boarding school is located within walking distance of Kate’s home. Something has happened, something discovered on the beach, and now the four are fearful of being found out for a disastrous lie that they told to cover up an event that happened 17 years ago.

The four young women are fairly well developed and we find out the most about Isa as she is the narrator of the story. There are other notable characters, in particular, Luc who is Kate’s half brother and a key player in their story. Why is he here when they all believed that he was still in France?? When he confronts Kate in the village he is barely recognizable as the young man that she spent so much time with in her youth, “Luc is not that boy anymore. He is a man, and an angry one. And I am one of the people he is angry with”. He is furious when he sees her and she has so many unanswered questions. What really has been taking place in the 17 years since they were together.

I wish that I had gotten to know a bit more about Fatima and Thea as they sounded like interesting and unique charaters.

Ambrose was the girls art teacher at school and is also Kate’s father. How, why and where did he disappear to when things started to come apart for him at the school? What really went on during all of the weekends that the girls spent at Kate’s house? Why were they all expelled from school mid semester?

I checked my Kindle location and I know that I really started enjoying this book at around 70% through. The tension was ratcheted up, we all know that we are getting close to the answers to all of the questions scattered through the book. I think for me there was a lull in the middle of the book but it was worth continuing for the ending is very good and for me it was quite a shock.

I really enjoy Ms. Ware’s writing and I will always look forward to her next book!

I received an ARC of this book through the publisher and Edelweiss, thank you.
Profile Image for Sue.
2,729 reviews219 followers
June 10, 2020
My nerves were on edge reading this superbly crafted thriller.

To get a text “I need you” hmm I thought, that could be interpreted several ways. So I was anxious to see if I was right or wrong.

Ruth Ware has been a hit or miss with me so I’m addicted at reading what she produces in case I miss a ‘good ‘un’.

4.75 from me
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,253 followers
July 25, 2017
I think of all the lies I have repeated and repeated over the years, until they became so engrained they felt like the truth: I left because I wanted a change. I don’t know what happened to him; he just disappeared. I did nothing wrong.

Can you imagine something you did as a teenager coming back to haunt you seventeen years later? You even stopped hanging out with your best friends, but all it takes is a text, I need you, to drag you back in.

Four girls (Isa, Kate, Fatima, & Thea) became friends at Salten House, a coastal boarding school. The girls bond over The Lying Game, a game they made up with a point system where they tell all sorts of lies to fellow students and faculty. The only rules are: tell a lie, stick to your story, don't get caught, never lie to each other, and know when to stop lying. Some lies were harmless enough, while others had real consequences. The girls get expelled in their final year of school around the same time Kate's father, the art master, goes missing.
That’s the trouble with having a “click” as Mary Wren might call it. When you define yourself by walls, who’s in, who’s out. The people on the other side of the wall become, not just them, but them. The outsiders. The opposition. The enemy.

The story is told from Isa's perspective and switches back and forth in time between present day & the past. We're told how cliquey the girls were, but it feels like mere glimpses into the girls' friendship back then. I feel like I was only being told by other characters what it was like around the girls or to be victim of their game. There wasn't much showing. In present day, Isa has new baby Freya who takes up a lot of her thoughts. This doesn't prevent her from dropping everything to take Freya with her to Kate's the second she receives the text. Is a seventeen year lie going to coming back to haunt them?

There is so much I was dying to know. What did the girls do 17 years ago? What happened to Ambrose, the art master? Why does Kate need the others now?
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 is more of a character-driven mystery than Ruth Ware's previous novels. It is oozing in characterization. The setting is brilliant for the story - atmospheric and tense. The steady decay and sinking of the Tide Mill felt metaphorical for the girls' friendship. The marshes the girls would cross to get to Kate's house I could feel myself walking through.

While this is a slow-burn mystery, at times it feels much too slow. I would've liked more on the friendship when the girls were younger. I feel like there was a bit more potential in Thea..and Fatima for that matter. They felt underwritten. I even have certain things I'm still wondering regarding Thea and her secrets. The mystery started out compelling, but became clear at a certain point. It just wasn't quite as mysterious.

I did like this one overall. Ruth Ware's writing is strong. It was nice to see something a bit different from her. I still prefer her first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood. It's interesting how both explored an old friendship since left behind but felt like very different books. Not by any means a bad thing. I love that Ware has this ability.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,349 reviews3,004 followers
June 29, 2019
This book kept me company when I was traveling and even though it has a pretty lackluster ending, I still enjoyed it. I've now read all of Ruth Ware's books, and while I wouldn't say this one is my favorite (The Turn of the Key takes that honor), it does appear I liked it a lot more than many of my other reader friends.

It didn't take me long for me to get hooked as Isa, Thea, and Fatima, all receive a text from Kate, with the words, "I need you". They all have busy lives but they drop everything to go to Kate as they fear the big, bad, terrible something that happened during their boarding school days is coming to bite them in the you know what. The story alternates between the present day and the past, as you get to find out how they became friends and the secret they have kept for years.

This might not be the most satisfying mystery I have ever read but it held my interest and that counts for something. When I finally got to the big reveal I did feel slightly disappointed because the author didn't have that ace up her sleeve that she could play at the last minute. Pretty much everything was already laid on the table and nothing came across as super shocking. It didn't ruin the story for me as overall I still found this to be an entertaining read.

I guess my advice to readers is stay away from this one if you are looking for a book filled with twists you didn't see coming. However, if you have enjoyed the author's other novels and lower your expectations a bit for this one, you might have as good of a time reading it as I did.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,529 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2020
This is a thriller. The beginning of this book very move shortly, but the ending of the book was really good. I also did not see the ending happening how it did. (*)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,782 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.