A Book Spy Review: ‘The Last Time I Lied’ by Riley Sager

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The Last time i lied.jpgImagine the friendly Camp Walden summer camp where twin sisters met for the first time in Parent Trap, or the fun, junk-food utopia that was Camp Hope in the movie Heavyweights

Now forget all that stuff, because Camp Nightingale isn’t some Disney special. . .

Riley Sager follows up last year’s Final Girls by taking readers inside the small space that is the Dogwood cabin (they’re all named after trees) where four young girls, Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and Emma Davis, the only first-timer out of the bunch, play a harmless game of Two Truths and a Lie one summer night. A short while later, all the girls, sans Emma, sneak out of their cabin and into the dark of the night for a little fun. 

That was the last time anyone ever saw Vivian, Natalie, or Allison. 

The story picks up fifteen years after the girls vanished, following Emma, who suffered serious PTSD when her bunkmates never returned. The only survivor from her cabin, Emma shares a similarity with Quincy Carpenter and the other “final girls” in Sager’s last novel, which featured a group of women who were each the lone survivor of various murderous acts. While subtle, it’s a slick move by Sager, keeping a similar enough formula but with a vastly different story. 

Still struggling with grief and confusion as to what really happened, Emma has channeled her frustration and pain into focus, quickly becoming an up-and-coming artist well-known in New York City for her beautiful paintings — many of which are of the three missing girls who are ever-present in her mind. One night, while showing paintings at a gallery, Francesca Harris-White, or “Franny,” shows up out of the blue and purchases one of her works. At first, Emma is unsure of how to interact with Franny, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, who she hasn’t seen in fifteen years. Once the two begin talking, Franny explains to Emma that she’s planning to re-open the summer camp, and even offers her a job coming back to Camp Nightingale to teach art to the kids. 

Much like the moviegoers who yell at the dumb characters in slasher flicks who choose to run into the murderer’s basement and hide inside the tiny closet with no lock on the door when they clearly could have just run away from the house altogether, readers here will find themselves pleading with Emma to tell Franny to screw off and stay in New York. Instead, of course, she chooses to return to Camp Nightingale. While it’s very much the reason for her pain, she also has unfinished business there. So, longing for answers, Emma Davis returns to the place of her nightmares, hellbent on finding the truth once and for all. 

As the story unfolds, Riley Sager takes readers on a dark, twisted, and thrilling ride, surging towards a shocking conclusion that’s so stunning it’ll leave readers gasping for air. 

If you liked Final Girls, you will love Sager’s latest novel, which is a touch better and nearly impossible to put down. Not only is Sager a terrific writer, but, other than a semi-slow opening, the structure of this book combined with the pacing makes for an incredibly fast read that splits time between the present day and the events fifteen years prior. Readers will quickly blow through the three hundred and seventy pages in no time, racing to see what Emma uncovers. Even veteran readers of psychological suspense will be blindsided by the jarring conclusion. 

It all started with a harmless game of Two Truths and a Lie. . . and Riley Sager saves his best lie for the end. Crime lovers get ready, this book is not to be missed. 

 

Book Details

Author: Riley Sager
Pages: 385 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1524743070
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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