A Game of Lies: A Novel

Image of A Game of Lies: A Novel
Release Date: 
April 23, 2024
Sourcebooks Landmark
Reviewed by: 

“An admirably creative story readers will long remember, leaving authors wondering why they didn't think of it first.”

Imagine this: A film crew for a reality TV show called Exposure arrives in a small Welsh town seeking contestants to participate in a wilderness survival competition. Everyone, physically fit or not, wants to be on TV so they all apply for a spot on the show. Why not? There's a hundred thousand dollars up for grabs for the winner. Who can't use that?

When the screening interviews are over, seven contestants are selected and transported to a secured backcountry campsite 20 minutes up the mountain where they will remain around the clock for the duration of the show.

"In the center of the camp is a rudimentary kitchen, built in the same expertly rustic fashion as the loo, plus a vast table—seemingly hewn from a single piece of wood—and seven seats. Above the table, metal lanterns sway on a thick rope suspended between two poles. Aside from the rustle of leaves in the breeze, it's eerily quiet."

But after the contestants settle in, they learn the truth.

There is no fitness competition.

Instead, they find that they have each been thoroughly background checked by the show producers, and were selected not for their fitness, but for their deepest, darkest secrets.

Such is the theme of author Clare Macintosh's diabolical new book, A Game of Lies.

And the worse the secret the better for the show, because the gimmick is if a player can guess another contestant's most devastating secret it's then revealed live on air and the contestant is kicked off the show. But if the player guesses wrong, that player is punished with his or hers worst fear. 

"Pam's crying now, her hands no longer gripping the chair but clawing at her body, pushing off the rats as they swarm up her legs. A huge brown one leaps from the wall onto Pam's head and she screams again, and now Zee can't watch because she's clawing at her own head, certain she feels sharp feet in her hair."

Mental health specialists heartily condemn the show.

Viewers can't get enough.

Producers hope for record breaking ratings.

Then one of the contestants disappear, and Detective Constable Ffion (pronounced Fee-awn) Morgan is called in to investigate.

"They follow Miles through a metal gate, which Dario padlocks behind them with a click. Ffion feel instantly too hot, despite the wind, which, up on the mountain, feels anything but summery. She couldn't do Exposure. Not in a million years. Quite apart from having to live with six strangers for a fortnight, she couldn't handle being locked inside what is effectively a cage. Like wild cats in a safari park, she thinks, and she imagines stalking the boundary looking for an escape."

Necessarily, because of the premise of the plot, there are a lot of characters in this book—the TV crew, the producers, the cast, various wives, exes, family members, a media reporter, law enforcement officers, the investigative team, Ffion's family, friends, neighbors, etc. Many of them have Welsh names, which can be a challenge to the English speakers. A cast of character Who's Who list would have been helpful to readers.

However, the structure and layout of the book helps bring these incredibly interesting characters to life. The book itself is divided into three parts. The numbered chapters within each part are arranged and titled by show episode, day of the week, and also by character, which gives readers an in-depth view of the main characters along with a bit about their back stories and motivation.

Plenty of twists and turns move the plot apace. The story generally travels along quickly save for a few passages in a scene or two dominated by Ffion and her family which are necessary for new readers who have not been introduced to them to in Macintosh's previous book, The Last Party.

All in all an admirably creative story readers will long remember, leaving authors wondering why they didn't think of it first.