Author Ruth Ware knows how to keep her readers totally involved in the narrative, guessing until the end at what the outcome will be. In Salten, England, four teenage girls, Kate Atagon, Thea West, Fatima Chaudhry (nee Qureshy), and Isa Wilde, become the closest of friends at their boarding school. Whatever mischief they engage in, they do it together. Their favorite game is “the lying game”. They get points for fooling unsuspecting dupes by convincing them with their stories, of things that are untrue, often humiliating those victims when the lie they told is discovered.
Without regard for how their tales will eventually affect other people’s lives, they are united in the effort to willfully tell stories, competing for points earned from telling the most convincing lies. Soon, they also earn the not too stellar reputations of troublemakers who can’t be trusted. Young and unaware of the consequences they may face in the future, they are simply engaged in having fun pushing the envelope. In the end, will they still think that their lying game is fun or will it become an albatross around their necks?
Eventually, their behavior seems to get them expelled from school, and they go their separate ways, all four rarely coming together again, until after 15 years pass. Suddenly, Kate Atagon, who has remained in Salten, sends each of them a plea for help with a text message on their phones that simply states, “I need you”. They all drop everything and leave their lives in the midst of whatever they are doing, to answer the call. They all text back, “I’m coming”.
In the present day, 17 years after they have left school in ignominy, Isa is a lawyer, Fatima is a doctor, Thea has a gaming license, and Kate is an artist who lives pretty much, hand to mouth. Each woman is now in her early thirties, but she picks up and risks everything to return to help a friend, knowing she would never have sent the text if it wasn’t absolutely urgent.
When they were in school, Kate lived in the Mill House with her father Ambrose, the art teacher, and her step-brother Luc. It was their hangout. It was then, and is now, a home that is in disrepair, and it is slowly being reclaimed by the sea as it sinks into the sand. Still, ignoring the danger, when they arrive back in Salten, they return to Kate’s home. After only a short time, she reveals why she has called them all back to a place they never wished to return, and they discover that their former lying game may have very dangerous consequences for their current lives. Apparently, while strolling along the beach, a dog walker’s dog found a human bone in the Reach near Kate’s home. This discovery could have monumental consequences on all of their lives. A lie that they told 17 years ago is now coming back to haunt them.
What can they do? Should they continue to lie? Do they tell the truth? Can they trust each other? Are they in danger? What exactly are they afraid of? What did they do in their past that is so upsetting to them? The author will keep you guessing until the last pages as to the nature of all the secrets that must be revealed.
What I particularly liked about the book was the fact that the story isn't hackneyed. It is original and creative. The reader will not feel that they have read the same thing dozens of times before with a different title. The author has also chosen the narrator very well, for she portrays each character with such clarity that you can visualize them in every scene from their appearances and personalities to the tone of their voices. This is a good, fast read that will keep the reader involved and on edge waiting for the ultimate conclusion.