Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.
“Two truths and a lie, ladies. I’ll start.”
If you like campy horror movies and slasher films and haven’t checked out Riley Sager’s work yet … what are you doing with your life?
Final Girls was one of my most fun reads of 2017, and I was so excited to hear that Sager’s follow-up novel, The Last Time I Lied, would be in a similar vein, this time tackling all the summer camp horror movie tropes you never knew you needed in thriller novel form.
I loved our protagonist, Emma, and found myself so invested in her journey. She’s such an intriguing main character, so thoroughly haunted by what happened in the past for reasons that aren’t revealed until deep into the novel. Even though her coping mechanisms paint her as the tortured artist stuck in the past, she’s a force to be reckoned with from page one. You can’t help but root for her determination to face her demons and unveil the truth, even when subtlety is far from her specialty. I was also pleasantly surprised by the romantic plot line, which usually falls flat for me when it comes to thrillers. This time around, though, it wasn’t in-your-face but still managed to keep me on the edge of my seat.
The strongest part of the novel is the eerie and isolated atmosphere of the woods surrounding Camp Nightingale. It’s the perfect backdrop for a mystery that will give you goosebumps. Sager refuses to shy from slasher movie stereotypes and even depends on them to evoke the cinematic visuals that bring his story to life. Somehow all the trope-y details like campfire ghost stories and the creepy groundskeeper never feel too cliché; they only build the suspense and add to the already spine-tingling mood. I especially loved the reoccurring motif of the Two Truths and a Lie game, which takes on unexpected significance and brings together so many different aspects of the storyline. It’s so easy to immerse yourself in the atmosphere and see it all unfolding right in front of you.
Sager is a master of the dual timeline. He nails it in Final Girls and goes above and beyond with The Last Time I Lied, too. Dual timelines are a favorite narrative device for me, but rarely does an author achieve such a cinematic presentation. Intrigue and suspense build simultaneously in the present and the past narratives, dropping hints that cross the border between the two. The threads crescendo in parallel, leading to a finale that’s impossible to put down and far from the truth I expected.
My only minor complaint is that I found the campers in Emma’s cabins (both past and present) to be rather cookie cutter, except for Vivian, but it didn’t at all detract from the aspects I loved about the rest of the book. If atmospheric, creepy, and cinematic novels are up your alley, you don’t want to miss out on The Last Time I Lied. I’m already eagerly awaiting Sager’s next novel … he’s yet to disappoint!
🚨🚨 Giveaway 🚨🚨
Want a copy of The Last Time I Lied? I’m partnering with the phenomenally generous Dutton Books, who is offering 20 finished copies: one for each stop on the blog tour. Now’s your chance to get your hands on one of this summer’s must-read thrillers!
I’m hosting this giveaway over on my Bookstagram, and it’s super easy to participate. To enter, all you have to do is:
- Be 18 years+ and live in the United States or Canada.
- Follow me on Instagram (@the.traveling.inkwell) & tag 2 friends on the giveaway post.
That’s it! But if you want some extra entries, be sure to read the instructions on the post.
If you don’t have an Instagram and still want to participate, just leave a comment on this blog post and play my game of Two Truths and a Lie:
- I’ve never been to summer camp
- I’ve never made s’mores over a campfire
- I’ve never pitched a tent
Can you spot the lie? You’ll get one entry for playing; another if you guess correctly!
This giveaway is not sponsored by or affiliated with WordPress or Instagram. A winner will be selected on Thursday, July 19th. Even though you can only win once, every stop on the blog tour is offering a giveaway, so be sure to check out the tour schedule and the other posts. Good luck!
Buy the Book
About the Author
Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, Final Girls, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.
Riley’s next book, The Last Time I Lied, was inspired by the classic novel and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”
Warm thanks to Riley Sager and Dutton for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review and to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for organizing this tour.
Check out the fantastic tour schedule here!