Sara Shepard’s The Lying Game is the first book in a murder mystery series that tells the story of a slain teenaged girl and her long-lost twin sister. Sutton Mercer, the story’s narrator, was a popular “it-girl” who lived a seemingly picture-perfect life until she was brutally killed. Instead of peacefully ascending from her life on Earth, Sutton finds herself following the life of Emma Paxton, her newly discovered identical twin. When Emma learns about Sutton from a mysterious video online, she travels to her twin’s hometown with the hopes of a family reunion, but finds out that Sutton is dead. Even worse, the only two people who know are Emma and Sutton’s killer. Curious to discover what exactly happened to the sister she had never known, Emma slips into Sutton’s life— living with her family, hanging out with her best friends, and kissing her boyfriend. But the charade can only go on for so long, as Sutton’s killer is still watching from the shadows and is determined to keep the secret buried.
From the first sentences of the prologue, The Lying Game was incredibly intriguing. Sara Shepard chose an interesting approach for the novel’s point of view by writing in the first person perspective of Sutton Mercer, who narrates from beyond the grave. Sutton is written as a direct reflection of the readers: she has little recollection of her life before death, and is attempting to clue together each piece of the mystery as Emma discovers them. As the story moves forwards, Emma’s unearths an iniquitous game that Sutton played with her friends: “The Lying Game”, a series of pranks played with the dual attempt of humiliating and terrifying its victims. Emma’s discovery of this game instantly characterized Sutton as a mean-spirited and spiteful character. This is emphasized throughout the novel through the use flashbacks, which showed that Sutton’s pranks were forms of bullying, such as body-shaming her friend Charlotte and degrading her adoptive sister Laurel. With so much evidence of Sutton’s cruelty, Emma’s hunt to find her sister’s killer on becomes more difficult, as it seems that almost everyone was trying to get their revenge. Emma, on the other hand, is characterized as a compassionate and innocent character. She took pity on those who had been bullied by Sutton, and strived to make amends as she delved deeper into her sister’s life. Sara Shepard was able to tell Sutton and Emma’s intertwining stories with an obvious duality between the two “identical” girls, which not only made The Lying Game an entertaining story, but a realistic one as well.
I would quickly recommend The Lying Game to any fans of Sara Shepard’s other novels, especially her book-turned-television series Pretty Little Liars, which has a cult following as well as a similar plot. Although all of Shepard’s books are murder-mystery centric, they all have unique and varying plots, which makes The Lying Game stand out amongst her other works. Even for those who have no acquaintance with Shepard’s writings, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast-paced suspense novel, filled with three-dimensional characters, a dark mystery, and a riveting plot. Each chapter left me questioning each-and-every character’s motives, which I believe is an essential part of reading a mystery. With new twists revealed throughout, such as secrets of Sutton’s past and the suspicious behaviors of Sutton’s so-called friends, the suspense remained high. As the first book in a six book series, the ending did not reveal who murdered Sutton Mercer, but has left enough of a cliff-hanger ending to lead me to read the rest of the series, and I would invite all mystery fans to do the same.