Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

38206879Verdict: Fast-paced, fun, but slightly lacklustre.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller

Published by Random House, Ebury Publishing, July 12th, 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned . . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all…

I had a lot of fun reading this, and fun was really what I needed. I read around 250 pages in one sitting (something I rarely do); I also went to bed way too late because I just needed to know how this one ends. But, this book really does not hold up to scrutiny and there were a couple of things that did not work for me.

When Emma was 13-years old and spending her summer at a camp for rich kids, her three roommates disappear. Now, 15 years later, Emma is a painter who has been painting and then painting over her friends for years, when she is invited back to the newly re-opened camp. Hoping for closure she accepts the invitation, but things might not be as idyllic as they seem.

I highly enjoyed the dual timelines (this is something I often adore) and thought Riley Sager brilliantly used this to develop his story. I did however grow increasingly annoyed at the way Emma withholds information from the reader. This is difficult to achieve in first person narration and here it did not work for me. Another thing that annoyed me about the narrative voice is the way in which people, especially women, are described. Emma is 28 and talks about herself and other women in the story as both old and spent, which, you know, grated. Especially when contrasted with the way the only significant male figure in the story is described: because obviously he just got hotter. While I understand why Emma might project her self-loathing onto her looks, I don’t buy that she would think this way about other women. Speaking of self-loathing – I also thought Emma’s guilt was maybe a bit over the top because, I mean, she was 13 when everything happened. The way people kept holding her behaviour as a kid over her head did feel a bit unneccessary.

In general I thought some of the characterization worked a lot better in the past than in the present. I thought Emma’s relationship to Vivian (one of the girls who disappeared in the past) was done excedingly well. I had a very similar friendship as a teenager: my best friend was both the best and the worst person possible for me. When she wanted, spending time with her felt radiant, she was funny and brilliant and unbelievably charismatic (I used to half-joke that I have never met a boy who didn’t fall in love with her – something that wasn’t as funny when she set her eyes on somebody I quite fancied – this happened more than once), we had so much fun. But, and here she is similar to Vivian, she could also be cold and uncaring. Riley Sager captured this part of (some) teenage friendships so unbelievably well that in contrast the weird mirroring with the girls in the present really did not work for me at all.

The book was well-written in a way that I just flew through. I could picture the camp perfectly and got a great sense of place and mood. I also enjoyed the mystery side to the story, for the most part. I did think that a couple of developments were a bit too convenient but overall, I did enjoyed my time with the book.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

11 thoughts on “Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about how Emma’s relationship with Vivian was so well written, but then Sager cheapened that dynamic by mimicking it with the new group of girls in a way that really did not ring true. And agreed, Emma describing herself as old and undesirable at every turn while Theo turned into some kind of Greek god was just ridiculous. But, yes, lots of fun!

    Liked by 2 people

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