It’s been a good while now since the last instalment of everyone’s favourite literary lush column – Blitzed Books. My good friends at Simon & Schuster have been goodly bigly enough to nurture my DEEP PSYCHOTIC LOVE affair that I have with chick lit mysteries.
I dunno what’s happened in the last few years with all the Gone Girl and Girl on the Train type of shit, but all of a sudden, mysteries became cool again. I worked for many years at a little hip and trendy second hand bookshop and the only people frequenting the mystery section were little old ladies looking for tattered copies of Agatha Christie. Now, you go into any Chapters across this great land and besides the trendy bejewelled Starbucks cups and chalk painted mugs, you can find tables and tables of beautiful trade paperback sized mysteries, just ripe for the picking.
Now, I spend a lot of time in the school world, reading boring academic things, so when I’m not poring over some War and Peace ass sized textbook, I must confess to you, my good readers, that I will read – NAY – devour mysteries. Summer’s coming is marked for some by either burning Christians in a giant wicker sculpture, bikini clad women with sun kissed skin, or in my case, the fact that I can’t go anywhere without buying a new mystery, only to finish it within 1-12hrs and then I’m back on the streets (?) looking for my next fix.
Frothing at the mouth with a stimulating mystery still burning in my mind, I stagger into any bookshop or drug store and or Wal-Mart middle of the aisle display of books that should be convenient but instead is completely in the fucking way, to find my next book. I will shame facedly and defensively respond to my mother asking me why I’m buying a new book and she chastises me. Yes, mom, I know, I did just buy a book yesterday, and I stayed up til 4am to read the goddamn thing, GET OFF MY BACK, you don’t know me. GOD!
Uh.. anyways. Look, I have a problem, and I just want to thank Simon & Schuster Canada for enabling me. You guys are the real MVP.
So, some back story before I get all wound up and overstimulated again, Ruth Ware is a really talented mystery/thriller author, and she kinda made a splash in 2016 with her book In A Dark Dark Wood and I FUCKING LOVED IT. Went to the drug store to buy ibuprofen for my hangover and I came home with a copy of In A Dark Dark Wood and stayed up all night to figure out what was going to happen. It kept me guessing and I like books that throw out the red herrings and you’re thinking you’ve got the ending pegged and then WHAM, this surprise fuckery comes out of nowhere and you’re like.. what.. why? Did I fall asleep or something and miss a few pages, and nope.. the clues were hidden right in front of your face, and you were too busy chasing leads. Ah, I love that.
Anyways, like most people who have talent, Ruth Ware quickly found herself on.. Reese Witherspoon’s book list or something and some good buzz was generated around her (and with good reason). I recently read her book “The Woman In Cabin 10” and holy shit, what a book! I LOVED it. Again, a quick read, but totally unexpected ending, and I really recommend picking both of these up, if you haven’t already. Go get some white wine and throw it in your purse and grab an old comforter and hit the beach and you’re set.
Anywho, when Simon & Schuster offered me the chance to check out Ruth Ware’s new volume, “The Lying Game”, I jumped at the chance. I almost fell over. Now, this one was a little different. It took me a little longer to get into it, and burned a little slower, and again, I kept thinking that I’d get to the logical end conclusion, but nope, I got totally side swiped. Anyways, join me for a spell and let’s see who’s a better liar.
So the synopsis of The Lying Game is as follows:
Isa Wilde is the leading lady, and she gets a mysterious text message from an old friend. The text message beckons her back to the town of Salten where she had attended boarding school seventeen years previous. The message is from Isa’s boarding school friend, Kate. Kate, Isa, Thea, and Fatima made up a nasty gang of girls who played what they called ‘The Lying Game’, a game where in the girls would endeavour to tell untruths to people, and would receive points scored based on the believability of the lie. The game consumed the girls in their youth and bore some very harsh consequences for them.
Seventeen years down the line, as Isa returns to this place of her youth, she is easily consumed again with ruminations on how she came to be a liar, and what brought her and these three girls together. I kind of wasn’t too sold on Isa at first, but as she reflects into how she came to have this intense and intimate friendship with three girls, I really changed my mind. I liked the way that this relationship is played out. The relationship dynamic between a group of teenage girls is this sticky, awful, and beautiful sisterhood, and this is told so honestly and succintly in the reflections of Isa.
There’s a line within the first few pages, and it reads:
“Kate Atagon. Just the sound of her name brings her back to me, like a vivid rush – the smell of her soap, the freckles across the bridge of her nose, cinnamon against olive”. – page 4
I think this is telling about the relationships that women have with their friends and the intensity that can be present. I was reminded in this line about my friendship with Rigby, how I know her, how I remember meeting her. There’s a naturally occuring kind of deep love that is formed with relationships that span many years. In our case – nearing 20 (please excuse us, we are very old).
Further to this line, there’s another that struck me:
“Thirty is plenty old to be a policeman. But I can’t think of Mark Wren as a thirty year old man – I think of him as a fourteen year old kid with acne and a fluffy upper lip, stooping to try to hide his six foot two frame. I wonder if he still remembers us.” – page 20.
I liked this quote because I found it being close to something I’ve said myself recently – I found out someone I know was working a high paid job and scoffed.. That kid was just a punk, a little shitbag I went to school with.. and yet, how quickly we have grown.
I think what I liked too is how the stories of the lies are told, and the terrible consequences that can be felt from them. I was talking with an actor once and she told me that lying is a lot like acting, and that it isn’t about the lie, it’s about how much truth can be woven into the lie, and the small details that are important. She said often practised acting by telling lies to people. This concept was interesting to me, and it’s something that I have always remembered this conversation. Isa seems to feel similarly because this intense relationship and the lying game seems to have been the practice for her to have the life she has – new mother to her baby girl Freya, and wife to Owen. And for all these successes, she finds lies creeping insidiously into her life. The lies twist into her life when she falsely tells Owen the reason for her return to Salten, and then again when she returns once more. The lies start out small and begin again to consume her, and this time she finds the lies backfire onto her.
Owen has been unaware that for seventeen years, Isa has hid a secret from him. All four of the girls participated in something that continues to haunt them, and happenings in Salten have dredged up secrets from the past that the girls would like to see buried for good.
There’s elements of the previous books by Ruth Ware in this story, but there’s a distinct horror element, specifically an “I Know What You Did Last Summer” vibe. The book is laid out in sections, sections that detail the five rules to the lying game and each section/rule kind of relates to the contents held within.
I think beyond anything else, this book is not only a great mystery/thriller, but it has some very important commentary on relationships, human nature, and how it feels to be a liar, to be damaged goods.
A line from the second section, “Stick To Your Story”, reads:
” ‘Ready?’, Kate asks, and we all nod. And then we walk up the steps into the school that kicked us out so painfully so many years ago.” – page 149.
I like this line because I think that it symbolizes a lot of how we can feel this rejection and have to face all those difficult feelings from our teenage years – obviously not all of us have been kicked out of school, but the difficult feelings remain.
“The memories are no longer gentle little tugs at my shoulder; they are slaps, each one an assault.” – page 181.
Ruth Ware is exceptionally skilled at putting into words, feelings that I have had, but have otherwise not been able to express. Ever been standing in the shower and you think of something painful from years previous and much like Bill Burr, you just have to shout it away?
“Why didn’t I realize? Why didn’t I realize that a lie can outlast any truth and in this place people remember? It is not like London where the past written over again and again until nothing is left. Here, nothing is forgotten, and the ghost of my mistake will haunt Mark Wren forever, and it will haunt me.” – page 291
I like this piece because it demonstrates the ramifications that our actions can have even when we are young. While I wasn’t entirely sold on Isa at first, I really grew to identify with her reflections. And I adored her by the end of the book. In many ways, I’d like to see more of her, but I don’t know if this is in the cards.
Some very minor criticisms – on page 330 – there’s a bit about naloxone, which is the drug that reverses opiate overdose, and there’s a statement about oral overdose being easily reversible. it’s not really, and I think this naloxone bit was thrown in as something of a buzzword. Opiods and naloxone are all over the news lately, so it only makes sense, but this statement is unfortunately incorrect. Potentially reversible, but not easily. Naloxone doesn’t save everyone.
There’s another mention of Orange Is The New Black that sort of took me out of it as well. If only because this mystery seemed a little timeless, and became sort of dated with that mention. I get why it was in the book, but it felt a bit more forced than the rest of the mentions – even the complaints about the failings of the NHS system were better placed and more apt.
So, I’m not going to spoil this book. I really want you to go and buy it, and read it, obviously. Mysteries aren’t fun if you know how they end. The ending to The Lying Game kept me guessing and even when I thought I had it called, I didn’t. It was painful, it was sad, like many mysteries, and in that way, I felt it was like so much of the life that we live.
Ruth Ware is a young author to watch and I look very much forward to reading more of her work, and I highly recommend her previous efforts for anyone looking for a chilly read to help you cool down on the hot summer days.
I wish to thank both Simon & Schuster Canada, and Ruth Ware for being kind enough to provide Drunk In A Graveyard with the opportunity to read The Lying Game. Thank you especially to Ruth for keeping me on edge.
The Lying Game is out July 25, 2017 (today!) and is available online direct from Simon & Schuster, amazon.ca, and on amazon.com, and most of your local bookstores/bookshops like Chapters Indigo in Canada.
All photographs taken by the oldblackgoat.