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).
While it had a pretty good ending, I found this book to be repetitive and slow for the most part.
As I began this novel, I quickly realized that it is very character driven as it focuses on Isa, Thea, Fatima, and Kate. While I generally gravitate more towards plot driven narratives, I decided to give this a shot. I’m not completely against character driven stories, but my biggest issue with this one was how repetitive it was in relation to description and character thoughts. As one example, I don’t know how many times the narrator described Freya as having the face of a “cherub”, but it was too many. All to often, as well, the main character, Isa, is described mulling over the exact same feelings and thoughts over and over again, making want to skim the page and just get on with the story. I understand that the repetitiveness is probably supposed to demonstrate how trapped she is in her own life, but it didn’t necessarily make for a fun or engaging read.
I also felt that the character and character relationship development overwhelmed the action of the story. As a “mystery” novel, I was hoping for more ‘mystery’. Rather the author spends the first half of the book withholding information from the reader even though the main character, of whom we follow and hear her thoughts, already knows this stuff! I found this to be a really cheap and frustrating way for the author to create mystery.
I have to say, though, that I did enjoy the vast personality range among the four main characters. Having vastly different personalities really made each character stand out and gave the book some colour, which I liked.
The ending is what really saved the book for me. While some of it was still a bit repetitive, the action really picked up here, shards of information clicked into place, and the stakes were high. For the last 100 pages or so, there was a great balance of character and plot development and pacing. It was only within these last hundred pages, as well, that I predicted the ‘perpetrator’ which made me pretty happy. But my favourite part about the ending was that it wasn’t perfect and ‘clean’ – that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers.
While the end of the book saved it, it just wasn’t enough to encourage me to give it a high rating. The beginning and middle were just too slow for my taste. Though, perhaps someone in their late twenties or early thirties – or even just someone with a child – would enjoy the character driven, slow pace of the book more so than I did. I might even recommend this novel to people who are fans of chick lit. I can appreciate what it was trying to do, but my overall enjoyment was rather, ‘meh’.