4.5 star, adult

Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game: Ware, Ruth: 9781982143411: Books - Amazon.ca

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).

Yes, another Ruth Ware! She has become an author I always look out for, and so far none of her books have disappointed me. Her thrillers are always incredibly chilling and I am always finding myself flipping through the book quickly trying to finish it in one sitting!

The Lying Game follows a group of four girls, who are now grown women with jobs. The story follows our main character, Isa as she is one day called back to Salten by her old friend who she hadn’t seen in years. A dark past lies between the four girls who were once best friends at school in Salten before they left their separate ways after a tragic incident, never to return. However, one ominous text from the girl who stayed calls them all back to face the ghosts of their past.

The Lying Game is a game that was invented by these girls while they were at school, and it involves (as you may have guessed) lying to peers and authority alike, in order to score arbitrary points for best lies told. There are a main set of rules to the game, and the book outlines each step of the game as sections in the book (e.g. Part 1: Tell a Lie). I found that this was an exceptionally effective way to frame each section of the book, and really set the tone for the suspense. As we go through the rules of the game, it parallels the set up of the lies that come back to haunt all the girls. It truly was a magnificent build up of suspense that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cohesion that this set-up provided was also gripping.

So why not 5 Drink Me Potions? I think one thing that I can knock it for was the predictability of the plot. While it wasn’t particularly obvious or anything, the big reveal for me personally wasn’t particularly shocking – although that’s not necessarily present in every thriller novel anyway. However, for those of you who love to be held in suspense, carrot dangling in front of you for the big reveal, this might just fall short for you. For me, I didn’t mind, since the reveal is really just a part of the denouement, and I enjoyed how everything stepwise came to a climax and resolved itself.

I really enjoyed that this book was a thriller (of course), but also simultaneously a moral story for all fabricating lies can truly come back to bite you, harming yourself and others along the way. It is also a tale of friendship, where a simple text could bring together four friends across cities, dropping their lives for the sake of each other when needed. This is a kind of friendship that isn’t always easy to find, and it was nice to see it reflected here in this story. Last little tidbit from me is that I also really enjoyed the ending and how everything was solved and how the story ended for our imagination. I thought it was a great ending to The Lying Game. Read it for yourself and see what I mean!

Overall Recommendations

The Lying Game follows our protagonist, Isa, as she is pulled back to the scene of her past along with her 3 (ex-)best friends when they receive a text from their friend requesting they come to her aid. These four have a long history together back at school when they used to play the Lying Game, making up fanciful tales and spinning stories about the people around them. Quickly we find out how lies can truly come back to bite you, even spanning years after the lie has been told. What happened in the past to make these girls separate paths, and what was the real truth of that night? Find out in this exciting thriller by Ruth Ware!

3.5 star, adult

Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood: Amazon.ca: Ware, Ruth: Books

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

Yet another Ruth Ware, albeit one of her oldest ones. I just couldn’t resist, there’s something about her work that draws me in, and need I have any other reason to pick up the novel and read it? Although this may not have be my most highly rated one from her, I was certainly captured by the spookiness of the setting of this thriller – I had very real goosebumps from the beginning all the way until the end.

This story is set in an eerie forest inside an almost entirely glass house, clear from all sides, in supposedly what is a summer getaway spot. The story follows the main character Leonora, who is called to a bachelorette (or hen) party by a friend she left behind long ago to this very house. Immediately as we get to the glass house, something feels off, or at least very creepy. The house is completely surrounded by the dark woods, giving the impression of eyes looking into the house from all sides at all times. Even the bathroom hardly has any privacy. I found that this was a great setting for all the suspenseful action to take place.

For me, the plot felt fairly average, nothing too special about it – there were the usual red herrings, the feeling that any or all of the parties involved could be guilty, and it’s a classic case of the main character suffering from amnesia trying to remember desperately the details of the night before. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the way this thriller was written from its first person perspective. Ruth Ware masterfully crafts all the elements of a thriller – I was genuinely nervous from the first sentence of the book. It made me feel like I was also searching through hazy memories for the truth of that night, which for me marks the feel of a true thriller!

Overall Recommendations:

In a dark, dark wood is a story of our main character, Leonora, struggling to remember what happened on a tragic night in a creepy glass house during a failed bachelorette party. What secrets from the past surface to haunt her at this party, and why can’t she remember what happened? A truly thrilling experience from beginning to end, if you are the type of reader who enjoys the experience of reading through the novel for the way the suspense and tension pulls you along, you will definitely enjoy this book. Despite its relatively normal plot, I was completely spellbound along with Leonora in search of the truth.

5 star, adult, buddy review

Buddy Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Welcome to our first buddy read at Down the Rabbit Hole! Fives and I are excited to start such a series with A.J. Finn’s explosive debut, The Woman in the Window. If you would like to see more of these kinds of reviews, please let us know in the comments below!

Breaking the book into a couple of important points, these are our individual and collective thoughts that came up as we read this book together.

Pacing and suspense build-up

Andge: While a thriller is typically typed as so by the level of intrigue and suspense the author aimed to put their audience through, not all are successful. The Woman in the Window was super slow for its first 30 or so chapters, let’s be honest. But its mundane, day-to-day details in Anna Fox’s life had a purpose that came back ten-fold, leaving me to revel at what came to be at the climax. Once details of the event Anna witnessed through her window unfolded, things just climb from there in a way that felt organic. Headings showing you the passage of time helped create a sense of urgency as we learn one new thing after the other. I would say the pacing couldn’t have been better.

Fives: I definitely agree with Andge’s sentiment here – the beginning was quite slow – although I personally don’t mind too much, I am all about that slow build suspense (the ‘just what is going on?!’ feeling). This all being said, the ramp up in tension and excitement was quick and relentless. I know for a fact that neither of us were able to put it down after the second half the book – it was painstaking for us to stop at our agreed landmarks for discussion! The short chapters were very well executed in providing this kind of steady rhythm that underlies the whole novel and provides a driving force for the suspense. Not every thriller I have read has this type of pacing, but I can say I definitely enjoyed this whole experience!

Plot elements

Andge: Any good mystery or thriller places a good amount of attention to the mundane details. They may just be there to set the scene, or in actuality, help tie together loose pieces at the end. A.J. Finn did this beautifully! I honestly flipped through pages back and forth in later scenes referencing earlier ones with exclamations of “oh wow I totally missed this!”. Red herrings are also a thing I look out for but the level of craftsmanship in this piece of writing made it hard for me to narrow down what mattered or what was there to throw us off. This detail-oriented planning was perfect for such a book.

Fives: Having more thrillers under my belt than perhaps an average reader, I have come to expect many kinds of seemingly mundane plot points or bedazzled red herrings. That being said, A.J. Finn did a fantastic job slipping in all the inconspicuous little details mixed in with the heavy hints – this did a really good job of mixing us up! Andge and I had long discussions over the many details inserted into the plot, and what they could possibly mean in the whole scheme of the novel. I believe one of the best approaches to thrillers is the hiding of important facts in plain sight, and I can say that the author did the most fantastic job of this – only when you really stop to scrutinize the details can you really even begin to pick out some possibilities. That being said, you won’t be able to stop turning the page to think!


Andge: In my experience with mysteries, sometimes the whodunnit individual was some random character who appeared for five seconds on a singular page in chapter 10, or something. So of course I had no idea they did it! Unlike my frustrations in those stories, I loved that we got to really know a handful of main characters in this book. The Russells made up of Alistair, Jane and Ethan held an air of mystery that slowly unravelled little by little as Anna interacted with them in her limited capacity. Add in Anna’s estranged family, daughter Olivia and husband Ed, plus her handsome live-in tenant David, there were a lot of people to consider when trying to piece the bits of information Finn slowly released to us at interesting times. Were any of these people involved in something, and why?

Fives: The characters are one of the standout points in this thriller. We get so many details into each of the main characters, and there are very few throwaway characters. Everyone was there for a reason, and as you delve deeper into all the characters that show up in the book, each one leaves you wondering about their motive and secrets – the mark of a truly skilled author. The plot follows only Anna, an agoraphobe who is stuck in her house, as she looks beyond into other houses. After reading the book, I am reminded that windows are two-way – does ‘The Woman in the Window’ refer to Anna looking out through the window, or someone else being looked at?


Andge: I would never want to ruin a book such as a thriller to you. But to sum up my feelings for The Woman in the Window, I have to at least address the ending. We came up with many hypotheses over our discussions for how this story was to end, and I do mean many. What I will say is that I wasn’t disappointed which is a HUGE win in my books, and it felt like the right kind of ending to give Anna and her story.

Fives: So in the end, what happens is – – just kidding. But trust me, despite being able to predict a few things here and there (none of which we were sure still, by the way), the whole ramp up all the way to the climax and resolution was just honestly enthralling, and I don’t think there was any other way I would have wanted it. The transformation of Anna from the beginning to the end was also a marked delight, and you must go see (or rather, read) for yourself! What are you waiting for?

We hope you liked reading this buddy review! We are super excited for any subsequent releases by A.J. Finn. But most importantly, we are stoked for the upcoming Netflix adaptation of this book this year. Stay tuned for a blog post comparing our thoughts on the book with the movie 🙂