THE LAST TIME I LIED by Riley Sager
Dutton, July 10, 2018
The Last Time I Lied is a perfectly worthy successor to Sager’s Final Girls, which was one of my favorite thrillers of 2017. His follow up novel is every bit as fun and twisty as his first, and I read the bulk of it in one sitting. Sager returns to his tried and true cabin in the woods setting, this time following Emma, a painter who spent two weeks at a summer camp fifteen years ago which ended with the disappearance of three of her friends; now Emma is returning to Camp Nightingale as an art teacher, hoping to get to the bottom of the events of that first summer.
But as gripping and addicting as it was, the criticisms kept piling up as I read. Emma was a notably bland narrator, who had no personality beyond her survivor’s guilt about the girls’ disappearances. And Sager’s depiction of female friendships was frankly bizarre to me: Emma was unnaturally interested in describing and thinking about other girls’ appearances, and Sager seemed obsessed with the idea of every single friend group having an ‘alpha,’ whatever that means (I mean, I know what it means, but how many friend groups have you been in that have an established alpha??? is that a thing that happens in real life???) And look, I’m not claiming that you can’t write a sufficiently gripping drama set at an all-girls camp – of course teenage girls can be catty and mean to one another – but some of the social dynamics that Sager relied on to tell this story didn’t quite ring true for me, and felt more like stereotypes than actual human behavior.
But my biggest issue (which I won’t get into very much to avoid spoilers) was that there were just so many coincidences and contrived plot points. Throughout the book clues essentially fell into Emma’s lap, to an extent where it struck me as laughable that the police could have overlooked some of these things for fifteen years.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, though. I had a lot of fun with this. But when I take a step back from the readability factor, I think the overall construction of The Last Time I Lied could have been stronger. But I still devoured it. And I think some people will take issue with the (outlandish?) final reveal, but personally I loved it – that was exactly the jaw-on-the-floor kind of shocking twist that I loved about Final Girls so much. Sager knows how to keep you hooked until the last page, that’s for sure. If you’re looking for a good and gripping beach read this summer, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this.
Thank you to Netgalley, Dutton, and Riley Sager for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.