book review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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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.

16 thoughts on “book review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

  1. I really love how our thoughts aligned on this book! I am so very tempted to start Final Girls just this moment because I just had so much fun with this book but I am currently reading seven books which already feels excessive (also, I am inofficially reading at least 5 more. I really should stop doing that).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, agreed! Right down to predicting one of the twists and being blown away by the other. I really thought our conclusions would end up being more different since you’re not big on thrillers.

      You are my reading a million books at once kindred spirit and I love it. Though I’m only reading 4 at the moment (and contemplating adding a 5th into the mix today). So I totally support you throwing out logic and going on a Sager binge. Sometimes a page-turner just really hits the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am resisting the temptation at the moment. AND I finally finished Red Clocks. I always have this idea of getting my current reads down to zero and then starting afresh because that would be so awesome. Never gonna happen though, at least not until I finish It.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think I’ve gotten it down to zero twice in the past couple of years and it always fills me with accomplishment and existential dread at the exact same time. I’m off to read your Red Clocks review, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on that. And how is the It progress coming?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think I have listened to it in a month. I am very close to giving up but I already invested 20 hours. That was such a stupid idea to begin with.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, I still can’t decide whether I want to read this book… I also really enjoyed Final Girls last year, but after reading the synopsis of this one I’ve been on the fence. I haven’t found ANY thrillers that I really enjoy lately and I’ve had high hopes for this one, but coincidences and contrived plot points don’t sound like the cure for my thriller-slump either. But great review, as always; if it’s a page-turner despite its flaws, I might still try picking it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you enjoyed Final Girls I’d definitely recommend checking this out – Sager’s twists and overall storytelling are as good as ever, I just wasn’t left quite as satisfied with the overall product as I was with Final Girls. But again, I read the bulk of this in one sitting, so if you’re just looking for something twisty and addicting this may very well hit the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really loved it but after reading your review, i definitely agree with a lot of your thoughts! I haven’t read final
    Girls yet though so I’m interested since everyone seems to have higher reviews for that one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I preferred The Last Time I Lied over Final Girls, just because the final reveal at the end of Final Girls was too much and out of nowhere for me. Weirdly, the final reveal for TLTIL made a little more sense to me, but I know it’s been the subject of a lot of criticism!

    And, I enjoyed Emma over Quincy as a narrator. I liked that there was a bigger cast of character to get to know and see developed (as compared to Final Girls). I’m also big on immersive reads (like historical fiction!), and I felt the setting of Camp Nightingale really did this book justice.

    I’ll probably read Sager in the future, but I really hope he doesn’t do another “lone female survivor of a traumatic event at a cabin in the woods sets out to learn what REALLY happened that night and nothing is as it seems!!!!” tale, because, ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved the final reveal in TLTIL! I thought it was the perfect ending. But I did also love the last twist in Final Girls, but likewise understand why it was probably a bit much for some people. I really loved the setting of TLTIL but I actually preferred the cabin in the woods scenes in Final Girls, I’m not sure why, I just found those scenes particularly chilling. And I agree 100% – I’m really enjoying Sager so far but he really needs to mix it up with his next book.

      Like

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