Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
My Rating: ★★★★
In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.
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.
I truly enjoyed reading this book so much (more than Final Girls), and it was so fun talking about our theories with everyone! I definitely rate this a high 4-stars because of the ending. It was really unexpected and really blew me away. However, I did have some issues with it, which I will get to in a bit!
But first, a quick break down: This is a story about Emma, who 15 years ago, went to a “rich bitch” summer camp called Camp Nightingale. One night her three bunk mates disappear. She is haunted by what happened that night and struggles with it mentally. Emma is also a painter, and she uses painting as a coping mechanism by painting the three missing girls. One day an opportunity presents itself: Emma learns that the camp is reopening, and she gets the chance to go back to become a paint instructor for the summer. So Emma goes back to where it all started, and this time she’s determined to figure out what happened to her three friends.
The story flowed so well between flashbacks and the present. The camp setting was so atmospheric, and Lake Midnight added the perfect haunting element. Even though this story takes place in the summer I truly think it was the perfect pick to read for Halloween.
So while I think there was a great balance between whodunnit and the dreaded “unreliable narrator”, and the twists were great — really, I had a hard time guessing who was the “bad guy” — I have one complaint: And that’s when the entire plot strays so far away from the big reveal that it almost doesn’t even feel like it was part of the original story. I’m not going to get into spoilers. But this is a pet peeve of mine when reading mysteries. For example, I had to stop reading Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series because the big reveal would always be so out of left field. Like, as in the “bad guy” wasn’t even in the story! And I’m NOT saying that’s what happened at the end of this book. I’m just saying the twist could’ve been foreshadowed better.
However, I did really like this book SO much. And the end still was great despite my complaints. So take my little rant with a grain of salt. I’m just really picky with thrillers (even though I am not an expert whatsoever.)
I also want to address something that we discussed in our reading group and that is Riley Sager’s name. It is a gender-neutral pseudonym (albeit more commonly female), and he doesn’t even have an author’s photo in the back of the book. It’s disappointing he thinks he has to use what is a common woman’s name to piggyback off the success of other female thriller authors. It just feels so unnecessary that a white dude needed to pull this stunt. He’s a fantastic writer so why hide behind a female pseudonym?