Book Review: The Lying Game

Already on a Ruth Ware roll, I decided to finish all five of her books and read The Lying Game. Without a doubt, this one was my favorite.

Isa is on maternity leave with her new daughter, Freya, when she receives an urgent text from one of her best friends from high school: “I need you.”

It’s from Kate, and the other two friends, Fatima and Thea, received the same text. The four were at boarding school together, and their friendship sealed a bond that no one could break. If any of them needed anything, at any time, all she needed to do was say the word. They all replied to Kate’s text with the same: “I’m coming.”

The three women, along with baby Freya, take the train to Salten, the coastal town on the English Channel where they met 15 years prior as schoolgirls. They aren’t sure what Kate needs, but they know fairly well what it may pertain to. The four women share many secrets between them, including one big frightening lie that must be kept hidden at all costs.

The Lying Game is pitch-perfect with its pacing, a steady current of unraveling details that lead to more nail-biting questions. I was utterly captivated by every word, and I even thought I had the mystery worked out a couple of times (but I was wrong on both accounts).

Isa is a delightful narrator, one whose voice is familiar to me as a mother and a deeply loyal friend. To what lengths would I go to help my best girlfriends? How far would I go?

Pretty far.

On top of the characters and plot, the setting is a scene-stealer. Having been to the English coast, I can clearly picture this sleepy, seaside down with its menacing tide and salty air. I have always loved mysteries that unfold by the water. The ocean is a mystery all its own.

The Lying Game tops my list of Ware’s books, followed by The Turn of the Key. Midway through I considered that this book would make an outstanding film. I still believe that. Hurry – someone buy the rights and make it!

Book Review: Three novels by Ruth Ware

I didn’t immediately jump on the Ruth Ware bandwagon after reading In a Dark, Dark Wood back in 2016. I liked the book just fine, but I wasn’t feeling the immediate pull to read everything from the author.

Three years later, I decided to give it all a go, starting with Ware’s fifth novel, The Turn of the Key, which was published this summer. This one does a stellar job of using setting as a character since the story takes place in an old Victorian home that’s been internally updated to be a smart house. You get old haunting vibes with the knowledge that anyone could be watching you via cameras.

Rowan Caine answers an ad for a nanny at Heatherbrae House in the Scottish Highlands, but what she doesn’t realize is that she’s walking straight into a nightmare. A child is going to die (not a spoiler) and she’s going to prison for murder (also not a spoiler).

The story is told in epistolary form (via letters from Rowan to her lawyer), which can get tedious at times, but it’s still a clever way to tell a story when it’s almost entirely in flashbacks. The narrative is highly suspenseful throughout and even creepy at times. It’s definitely my favorite of Ruth Ware’s books.


I was so pleased with The Turn of the Key that I immediately went on to The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ware’s fourth novel.

Harriet Westaway, “Hal”, lives modestly in Brighton as a tarot reader on a pier. One day she receives a letter informing her that she is the chosen recipient of a substantial inheritance by her grandmother in Cornwall. That would be great news if Hal’s grandparents hadn’t already died years ago.

However, since she’s desperate for money (to pay off loan sharks) and tired of living pound to pound, she decides to attend the funeral to see if she can get away with accepting the inheritance without anyone being wise to her scheme. Of course, it’s not going to be easy.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is less suspenseful than The Turn of the Key, but it still kept my interest because I wanted to untangle the knot. Each member of the Westaway family had a secret to keep, and it was a fun ride with Hal to see where each puzzle piece fit.

This book was advertised as an “unputdownable thriller,” but I challenge the “thriller” part. I did get through it quickly because I wanted to know how Hal was related to everyone – or if she even was related to them at all.


Since I was on a roll with Ruth Ware books, I finally picked up her second one, The Woman in Cabin 10, which was published in 2016.

The story begins with a burglary. Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist (dream job!) and had the unfortunate experience of a traumatic break-in. To escape the fear she feels at home, Lo leaps at the chance to take part in a luxury press tour on a Scandanavian cruise. One night on the water, she sees what she believes is a woman being tossed overboard to her death. Lo cannot let this go, despite a full search aboard the ship and everyone reassuring her that she didn’t see anything.

A few things: The initial burglary put Lo in a state of constant anxiety, so her narration was irritating to the point that I didn’t want to hear any more in her voice by the middle of the book.

Secondly, the pacing seemed to drag. I understand the need to create claustrophobia on a small cruise liner, to agitate the reader so he/she *feels* the tension, but I became too frustrated with the slow pacing (combined with the tight living quarters and Lo’s anxiety) that I could not finish the book.

That’s right. I didn’t finish it.

Of course, I wanted to know how it ended, so I read a summary online and immediately felt relieved that I didn’t suffer the rest of the book for that storyline. The Woman in Cabin 10 has been my least favorite Ruth Ware book thus far. I don’t recommend it.

I’ll give The Lying Game a go soon. Then, I’ll be up to speed.

Book Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

in-a-dark-dark-woodFor Leonora, going to a hen party isn’t her cup of tea, but when an old friend from a decade prior is getting married, she’s on the receiving end of an invite to a cabin in the woods to celebrate Clare’s last days as a single girl.

If “cabin in the woods” isn’t an indicator that something will go wrong, then I have nothing else for you.

Reluctantly, Nora goes. She carpools with Nina, another blast from way past, and shows up in Northumberland already wishing she’d declined. Also in attendance is Flo, Clare’s obsessive, insecure bestie, Melanie, the new mom who can’t stop talking about her six-month-old, and Tom, the token gay guy. When Clare shows up for her bachelorette weekend, Nora is reminded of all the reasons why their friendship fell part ten years ago.

It’s made worse when she learns that Clare is marrying James – Nora’s old high school sweetheart.

If it sounds like I’ve described a novel that should be on the Chick Lit shelf instead of in the thriller section, you’re not entirely wrong. There is serious girl-boy drama among this crew of “friends.” There is bickering and snide remarks, jealousy and even a turn on the Ouija board. However, once someone is murdered, sh*t is about to go down.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a thriller at its core. There is suspense and speculation. There is chasing in the woods and inclement snowy weather. However, I have to disagree with the front cover quote (on the edition I read) from Reese Witherspoon that said, “Prepare to be scared… really scared!” No, I wasn’t scared. I had a couple of theories on who the real criminal was and one of them panned out as true.

But don’t let this deter you. I read this book in three days because I couldn’t put it down. I read at every free moment I had, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for this level of thrill. For a whodunit, it works.

It’s just not scary.