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A Game of Lies


A Game of Lies

Reality competition television has long been a regular form of programming around the world and has become fodder for the psychological thriller genre. Clare Mackintosh tackles this subject in her latest novel, A GAME OF LIES.

“Exposure” is set in Wales and features seven strangers vying for a large payout if they can outlast their competition. Of course, the show’s slick producer has other plans, and they have no idea what’s in store for them. What they really don’t expect is the pile of human bones found nearby. Making matters even worse is that one of the contestants, Ryan Francis, mysteriously goes missing after this discovery. They are all expected to stay in the enclosed game area 24/7, but cameras clearly show Ryan sneaking out in the middle of the night with no sign of his whereabouts.

"A GAME OF LIES explores not only a criminal case but also the very nature of the modern reality show.... It all makes for an effective psychological thriller/social commentary mash-up."

Enter DC Ffion Morgan, whom readers met in THE LAST PARTY, and her new partner, Georgina “George” Kent. They are eager to find out what is going on with this controversial and secretive series set in their own backyard. Ffion even knows one of the contestants, postal worker Ceri Jones.

Ffion is an interesting character who is accompanied by her rescue dog, Dave, who has foul breath and a flatulence issue that does not endear him to the rest of the department. Once they encroach on the set of “Exposure,” they are met immediately by the overbearing and very suspect producer, Miles Young, a true control freak. He introduces them to his presenter, Roxy Wilde, and they proceed to discuss the remaining contestants. They also learn of the podcaster who is lingering around the outskirts of the set causing some commotion.

Ffion and George are joined by DC Leo Brady, who once had a thing for Ffion, which makes his presence uncomfortable for her. They initially have no idea what happened to Ryan until someone contacts them with what could be a major tip.

On “Exposure,” each contestant has a deep, dark secret that he or she does not want exposed. The person who is able to get past this and outlast his or her fellow liars will be the winner. The police know that the show’s premise will present some issues when it comes to discovering any kind of truth in this case, especially when Roxy informs them that Miles may be the biggest liar of them all.

The contestants remaining tight-lipped off-air and increasingly more paranoid when the cameras are rolling makes for some tense moments, and readers will have a hard time pinning anything on a potential suspect. The setting behaves like another character, and the local dialect is well at play throughout the novel.

A GAME OF LIES explores not only a criminal case but also the very nature of the modern reality show. We live in an age when seemingly anyone can be a “star,” typically with no actual hard work or skill set. This is exemplified by Mackintosh’s depiction not only of the competition series, but of the endless number of podcasts with which we are inundated. It all makes for an effective psychological thriller/social commentary mash-up.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 27, 2024

A Game of Lies
by Clare Mackintosh