Published by Dutton Books on July 3, 2018
I had so much love and adoration for Riley Sager’s Final Girls last year – I wasn’t sure if a book existed that could top it. Technically, it didn’t, because Riley Sager was still writing it.
There is something masterfully ethereal in the way Mr. Sager writes his books – and for a male author, he absolutely has a deft grip on the twenty-something female psyche. While Final Girls dealt with the trope of the one woman left standing in the wake of a serial killer’s murder spree, The Last Time I Lied takes a quieter, softer approach – which makes it that much more devastating when the hits start coming.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Emma Davis is a painter – 28 years old, she’s exploded onto the market with a series of almost ghostlike paintings of forests and cool, misty dwellings that could hide anything. It turns out, they do hide something – the silhouettes of three girls, in every single painting Emma completes, covered over in layer upon layer of paint.
When Emma was 13, she went to Camp Nightingale. And on the night of the Fourth of July, Emma watched her roommates Vivian, Natalie and Allison sneak out, hushing her with a finger pressed to their lips – and on the morning of the July fifth? They were gone.
It’s been fifteen years since Emma’s bunkmates went missing. Emma lives with their ghosts each and every day, hoping against hope that maybe, this time, they won’t haunt her any longer. But the more time that passes, the more doubt creeps in. So it’s no wonder that when the eccentric Frannie – millionaire and former matron of Camp Nightingale – finds Emma and asks her to return to Camp this summer as the Painting instructor, Emma jumps at the chance to exorcise some demons, and maybe find Vivian, Natalie and Allison at last.
What follows is the story of Emma’s homecoming at Camp Nightingale – the same family-run business she knew 15 years ago. Lacking in counselor accommodations in the Lodge, Emma winds up staying in the same cabin she was assigned to all those years ago, with three perspicacious and nevertheless empathetic and lovable teenage girls to watch over. But surely this can’t be a coincidence, can it? One morning, walking to the bathroom, Emma notices a glint outside her building – a camera, trained on the front door of her cabin. This can’t be a coincidence. But when she unearths a secret map in the lining of Vivian’s old trunk, a series of events unravels that pushes Emma to her absolute limit, and leaves you gasping for breath.
The Bottom Line
Emma is an only child, the byproduct of two disinterested parents. She latches onto female role models quickly and effortlessly, and when the cool, 16 year old Vivian takes a liking to her scrawny, 13 year old self, she warms up instantly. Emma wants desperately to be cool in Vivian’s eyes, and copies her every move, down to exactly how many bites of each food she eats in the dining room each day.
We feel for Emma – as a 13 year old, lost in hormones and anguish but also as a 28 year old, just trying to make sense of the world she’s spent the last 15 years sleepwalking through. I found her to be just the right mix of unreliable narrator – a brief stint in a mental hospital as a young teenager has left her damaged and slightly ill – and empathetic leader. I wanted so desperately to know what had happened to the girls that summer, and when I finally found out … my guess was definitely wrong.
If you’re in the mood for a thriller with an ethereal, otherworldly setting like Camp Crystal Lake in the Friday the 13th series, but you’re tired of the same domestic thrillers about the philandering spouse that are cluttering Target’s bookshelves, look no further than Sager’s latest novel. This is the perfect book to read on a summer night, legs up on the porch railing, a drink in your hand – provided, of course, you’re in a well-lit area and are not prone to stress nightmares.