The Lying Game (Ruth Ware, 2017)

lyinggamecover

Why did you choose this book?

This is the third book I’ve read by Ware.  I really enjoy her ability to develop suspense, and this novel in particular reminded me of some of the 1960s romantic suspense novels I’ve really enjoyed (think Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney), minus the romance.

What’s it about?

Isa Wilde and her friends Fatima, Kate, and Thea, were notorious at their boarding school for their tight-knit friendship and a game they played that involved lying to everyone around them.  They spent every weekend with Kate’s father, Ambrose (the art teacher), at the nearby old mill that served as his home.  Until, that is, they were expelled and he vanished.  Seventeen years later, Isa receives a text from Kate, reading “I need you.”  She goes, and her life will never be the same.

Categories

Psychological suspense

Review

I found this novel to be the best from Ware so far.  In a Dark, Dark Wood felt a little sporadically paced with some plot holes.  The Woman in Cabin 10 felt implausible.  This one sucked me right in.  At times, I thought I knew where it was heading and had to take a break from the growing dread I felt.  I was wrong each time, but the book certainly had pull on my emotions.  I’d recommend this, despite my frustration with the protagonist, both for her constant lying and her callous treatment of her romantic partner.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

Part I: what you know before the last 50 pages.

The four girls were at school together and were expelled after the school received nude drawings of them done by Ambrose.  Fatima was sent to Pakistan to join her parents, Thea was taken to yet another boarding school (she had a history of expulsions), Kate stayed at the mill, and Isa returned home to her father and terminally ill mother.  The night before their expulsion, the girls discovered that Ambrose had committed suicide, leaving behind a note.  They drug his body out on the beach and buried it, because Kate was too young to live independently and would have been sent to foster care.  She claimed he had disappeared, but didn’t go to the police until she reached the age of majority, months later.  Her troubled step-brother, Luc, was sent back to his opiate-addicted mother in France, since he was also too young to live on his own.  The girls haven’t been reunited in 17 years, but when a body is discovered on the beach, Kate texts them and they all return.

Part II: what really happened.

Luc and Kate were sleeping together.  Ambrose was vehemently opposed to this and was planning to send Luc away to boarding school to stop it.  Luc was distraught, and after his traumatic childhood, believed that people would always betray him.  He laced Ambrose’s wine with heroin, causing Ambrose to overdose orally.  When Ambrose figured out what had happened (he was a former addict and knew the symptoms), he penned a suicide note in order to protect both children.

After all of this comes out, Luc and Kate have an argument.  Luc, not realizing the others are in the Mill, knocks over a paraffin lamp and the Mill goes up in flames.  Luc heroically rescues Isa’s infant daughter, but is himself consumed by the inferno, along with Kate, who had run back in to rescue him. The remaining three girls create a story to protect the posthumous reputations of Luc, Kate, and Ambrose, and finally quit lying to everyone around them.

Isa and her boyfriend Owen ostensibly make up, but she realizes she doesn’t really love him, although she’ll stay with him for the sake of their daughter, Freya.

As with some of Ware’s other works, I didn’t find the protagonist particularly likable, and I became frustrated with her relationship choices.  If she would have confided in Owen, even a portion of the story, I would have been much less frustrated with her.  Regardless, this was a compelling read.

In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware, 2015)

So, to start off before I forget, I now have a Twitter!  I’m still mastering the art of the tweet, but feel free to follow me @biblioventuring!  Creative name, I know.  😉

Why did you choose this book?

I’ve heard so much buzz about Ware’s second book The Woman in Cabin 10.  I’ve been going through a Jennifer Weiner phase recently (no, I haven’t been blogging about it), so I decided this would be a welcome change from that type of fiction.

What’s it about?

Nora (not to be confused with another main character – Nina) has been invited to her high school best friend’s (Clare’s) hen party (bachelorette party).  The two haven’t talked in a decade, but for some reason, Nora decides to go.  Upon arriving, she realizes they will be staying in a huge glass vacation home in the middle of nowhere (cue creepy music).  The other guests include Flo (OBSESSED with Clare), Tom (nonchalent, coke-snorting theater guy), and M-something (Melanie? Melissa?) who leaves halfway through to spend time with her baby.  Some sketchy things start happening, and the chapters at the party are interspersed with present-day Nora laying half-dead in the hospital with amnesia.

Categories

Suspense

Review

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, it seems like many people didn’t enjoy this book.  As for me, I definitely did!  Was it a spine-chilling, heart-pounding suspense read like I expected?  No.  But I was so absorbed in the story that while reading it at work I wouldn’t hear people approaching and when they greeted me I would experience temporary disorientation as I pulled out of the fictional world to respond.  I’ll definitely be reading Ware’s next book.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

I’m starting to do this section so with books in a series, I don’t have to re-read the whole series to get caught up.  It’s also a good way for me to quickly remind myself of a book in case I’m recommending it to someone and get it mixed up with a similar title.

So, it turns out that the bad blood between Nora and Clare happened after Nora became pregnant by her then-boyfriend, who is now Clare’s fiance, James.  James texted Nora and ended things suddenly, and Nora went into a self-preservation flight and fell out of contact with everyone.  At the party, we learn that Clare actually sent the break-up text so that she could have James to herself.  She also encouraged Nora’s abortion.  Clare is the one responsible for setting the events in motion that killed James, and for trying to place the blame for those events on Nora’s shoulders (phony texts, unlocked doors, false testimony, etc.).

 

Those We Left Behind (Stuart Neville, 2015)

those we left behind

Why did you choose this book?

I lived in Ireland for a few months while in college, and had the opportunity to travel to the northern counties (still a part of the UK).  I’ve been drawn to any and all Irish fiction since those travels, and this novel is set in Belfast.

What’s it about?

Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster parent at the age of 12.  Now in his early twenties, he has been released from prison.  Ciaran is overjoyed to see his older brother, Thomas, but unsure of what to make of the world into which he has been released.  His parole officer (Paula Cunningham) and the officer who took his original confession (Serena Flanagan) suspect there is more to the story, and as strange things again surround the pair of boys, both women are determined to get to the bottom of the case once and for all.

Categories

I think it’s supposed to be suspense, but to me it just read like a mystery.  I didn’t really feel that the main characters were in danger from the “villain.”

Other recommended reads?

The overall tough detective feel reminded me of Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Nights.  A more enjoyable Irish police procedural/mystery novel is Conor Brady’s A June of Ordinary Murders.

Review

I kept this novel on my to-read pile for months, waiting until just the right moment to crack it open.  I finally decided to do so, and found myself underwhelmed.  The novel is a fast read.  I felt that it could have been set anywhere, and the only real Irish touches were the names.  I also felt that the characterization could have been stronger, with many characters (like Thomas, Ciaran, and Serena) feeling one dimensional.  I probably won’t read the rest of the series, but I don’t regret reading this entry.

Up next?

The Legend of the Rift by Peter Lerangis

In Bitter Chill (Sarah Ward, 2015)

in bitter chill

Why did you choose this book?

I read a synopsis and was intrigued.  I’ve been in the mood to read a lot of thrillers and mysteries lately, though I’ve tried to temper that in order to be a more well-rounded librarian.

What’s it about?

There are a couple of stories here.  In 1978, Sophie and Rachel were abducted on their way to school.  Later in the day, Rachel was found wandering with no memory of where she had been.  Sophie was never found.  Parts of the story are told from Rachel’s perspective during this time.  Flash forward to the present.  Sophie’s mother has committed suicide and one of the teachers from the girls’ school is found in the woods and has been strangled twice (once with hands, once with a garrote).  This brings Sophie’s case back to the fore.  This part of the story is told from either Rachel’s perspective, or that of the inspector in charge of the investigation.

Categories?

Suspense or mystery – it’s kind of a fine line here.

Other recommended reads?

Anything by Mary Higgins Clark

Review?

Sometimes I found the pace a bit slow, but I thought the story was compelling, the cover art was beautiful, and I didn’t figure out what happened to Sophie before the characters did (which to me is always a sign of a mystery or suspense novel well-plotted).

Up next?

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Reykjavik Nights (Arnaldur Indridason, 2015)

reykjavik nights

Why did you choose this book?

I honestly don’t remember, but it sounded like an intriguing suspense novel.  Since it was touted as the prequel to the series, it seemed like a good place to start.

What’s it about?

Inspector Erlendur is new to the police force and working the night shift.  One night, a homeless man named Hannibal (who Erlendur has become acquainted with) is found drowned.  It is assumed to be nothing more than an accident, probably occurring when Hannibal was drunk.  But Erlendur feels like something isn’t right, and begins to investigate.  Years ago, a woman went missing in the same area.  Could the two cases be linked?

Categories?

Mystery, suspense?, Icelandic fiction

Other recommended reads?

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Review

This book was a very fast read.  I enjoyed it, but at the same time I feel like some of the linguistic flow was lost in translation.  I was also distracted by my complete and total inability to pronounce Icelandic names and place names.  To me this novel was billed as suspense, but since Erlendur was never in danger of bodily harm, I would call it a mystery instead.

Up next?

Cooking as Fast as I Can by Cat Cora

The Melody Lingers On (Mary Higgins Clark)

melody

Why did you choose this book?

I’m going through a mystery phase, and I figured it was time to read one of the most popular and prolific authors, Mary Higgins Clark.  The jacket of the book goes so far as to call her “the queen of suspense.”  Now, that’s a recommendation!

What’s it about?

Lane Harmon works as an assistant interior designer for some of the most rich and famous clients in New York City.  When the firm is called upon to decorate a suburban town house for a wealthy client, Lane becomes the go-to-girl.  Upon arriving she hits it off with the client’s handsome son, Eric Bennett.  The only problem is the controversy surrounding him – his father, Parker Bennett, stole the life savings of hundreds of middle-class families and then fled the country.  Parker’s boat was found later, without him in it.  Did Parker die or merely escape, and was Eric involved in the scheme?  Lane finds herself in the middle of the mess and falling for Eric, too…

Categories, I need categories!

The jacket says suspense, but I didn’t find this to be the fast-paced, heart-pounding novel I expect when it is touted as suspense.  I’d just call it a mystery and leave it at that.

Other recommended reads?

If you like this, you’d also probably like books by Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt, both of whom are better authors.

Final thoughts?

I wanted this book to blow me away and it just didn’t.  I thought there were some issues with the writing and editing (for example, the use of the word “Manhattan” twice in the first sentence).  I also didn’t get the sense of impending doom that I expect with a thriller, suspense novel, or even a well-constructed mystery.  Things just seemed to inch along until the end, when suddenly many things you didn’t expect happen, and then it’s over.  I probably won’t pick up another Mary Higgins Clark.

Up next?

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler