The Last Time I Liedby Riley Sager Published 03 Jul 2018
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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.
"The Last Time I Lied" Reviews
I’m trying my best to contain my excitement and review Riley Sager’s new book in a professional manner.
See that? I only used one exclamation point. I want at least 300 more! It is a spanking good, cracker jack of a novel that I could not stop reading for two days.
THE LAST TIME I LIED is a brilliant and campy (pun intended) mystery for all you grown up fans of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.
It will be the 2018 summer-beach-novel-must-read! This is a nostalgic and twisted look back at your own summer camp memories. It’s terrific fun!
I'm crazy about Sager’s deceptively easy writing style. He breezes right through the telling of the story, all the while creating mood, atmosphere and the fun kind of dread you get in the pit of your stomach while watching a horror flick. The pages suck you in and Sager holds your hand as he walks you through the creepy story that began 15 years ago at Camp Nightingale.
Three out of four girls disappeared from the Dogwood cabin and that fourth girl? She suffered a nervous breakdown in the months following the disappearance of her friends. In a way, she is the SOLE SURVIVOR, and if you loved Final Girls you know what that means. Yes, Emma is a Final Girl and she is a sympathetic and very unreliable narrator. Emma has a chance to return to the camp fifteen years later, and of course, in Riley Sager’s world, she goes back to teach art at the camp. Oh, and to solve the old mystery while confronting her many demons.
Please don’t bother to read the overly long and convoluted book jacket synopsis. It almost scared me away. So many names that are meaningless until you read the story. If you liked FINAL GIRLS, you will love THE LAST TIME I LIED. It is also delicious reading for fans of The Chalk Man or Good Me, Bad Me.
THE LAST TIME I LIED is not going to be published until July 2018, I'm sorry to say. However---it is sooooooo worth the wait! It’s a completely different story from FINAL GIRLS, but the same brilliant author supervising the fun.
Many thanks to Dutton Publishers and Edelweiss for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. All opinions are my own.
This is how it begins.
I'll admit, I wasn't as intoxicated with Final Girls last year as the general public seemed to be, but I was in tune enough to realize that Riley Sager has some serious talent in his writing repertoire. His stories are darkly compulsive, and I've come to find that his growth in the psychological thriller field is enormous between his first book (good) and his second one (great). This is EXACTLY what I like to see in an author's pattern of book releases, and I honestly couldn't be more excited for where his next work takes us.
You see the fine grains of the pine plank wall, smell the traces of campfire smoke in your hair, and know exactly where you are. Camp Nightingale.
I would say the format of storytelling is similar to Final Girls, and both books are dark psychological thrillers, but the similarities end there. Where the previous novel was more of a slasher thriller with a YA vibe, this one was a more grown up, complex psychological thriller that was driven by the multiple mysteries at hand. While I can't put my finger on exactly what it is that I liked more about The Last Time I Lied, I think it had something to do with the timing of reading it, plus the fact that this one felt far less formulaic and engaged my brain power as a reader, rather than just expecting me to sit back and be entertained alone.
So much water. So much land. So many places to disappear.
It's tricky to go into details without spoiling any of the book, but it's definitely one that will grasp your attention from the prologue. The story is told alternating between flashbacks during Emma's first stay at Camp Nightingale and present day, which is 15 years in the future. What looks like a straightforward investigation into the disappearance of Emma's three friends from the past turns into a hella good suspenseful romp into so many different directions that I had to re-read one of the reveal sections FOUR TIMES before I could move forward because- Sager fooled me! As an avid suspense aficionado, it's a feeling that I don't get often these days and cherish when the opportunity comes along.
You think of all these things and begin to scream.
I'm still torn on how I feel about a few aspects of the ending, but overall I was very pleased with each facet of this one. It was entertaining, engaging, and had that "unputdownable" factor we have all come to crave from our latest read. If you've been eagerly anticipating this one as much as I have over the past year, I hope you're as satisfied with the pay off as I was. At a time that I've been almost ready to give up on psychological thrillers, I am so thrilled to have consumed this one and for it redeeming the genre in my eyes and persuading me to ride the suspense train a little bit longer.
* I received a review copy from the publisher.
🚣🏻♀️ 5 Stars for Riley Sager’s campy summer mystery - The Last Time I Lied 🏕
I was uneasy the entire time I read this book. Part of that was my own excited expectations/anticipation of the book but the other part was Sager’s writing. He knows how to create an elusive mood that leaves you full of dread, yet wanting more. You’re reading, turning page after page, just waiting for “that something” to happen. You know it’s coming. You’re creeped out and suspicious of everyone. You can’t put the book down because you simply have to know where its all going. That’s my reading experience with this book in a nutshell and I loved every minute of it.
Sager masterfully spun a tale that is told in two different times - the present & past (told via flashback from 15 years ago). It all began at Camp Nightingale 15 years prior when three girls disappear from Dogwood cabin. Emma, the youngest of the four girls rooming in the cabin was the only one left. She is deeply affected by the disappearance of her friends and is haunted by the girls throughout her life. Emma is unable to come to terms with the terrible tragedy because they never fully learned what happened to the girls that fateful summer night.
Flash forward 15 years and Camp Nightingale is once again opening its doors to campers. Emma has been invited to teach art at the camp for the summer and of course she accepts. It’s her chance to finally solve the mystery and hopefully put the events of that summer behind her.
Emma is a wonderfully sympathetic yet unreliable narrator. Can her memories be trusted when she herself admits to having had a nervous breakdown in the months after her first camp experience? There were so many secrets that it was nearly impossible to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. There were so many well crafted layers to this mystery! I literally suspected everyone, trusted no one & still had it all wrong in the end. I LOVE when I don’t see "it" coming. It was all there, the crumbs had been woven into the story but with Emma being such an unreliable narrator you simply don’t know what to think or who to believe.
The book had me riveted from beginning to end. I too was on a search for the truth with Emma amidst all the secrets, lies & guilt. I definitely recommend this read to fellow mystery fans and hope it will keep you second guessing just as it did me!
The Last Time I Lied has even been picked up by Amazon Studios to be adapted into a limited series!!! Yay, I can't wait!!!!! You can read all about it here if you'd like --> https://www.amazonbookreview.com/post...
Thank you to NetGalley, Dutton, Penguin Books, and Riley Sager for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“Sometimes a lie is more than just a lie. Sometimes it’s the only way to win.”
Picture this: Sleepaway camp. 4 girls share a cabin until the day 3 disappear never to be found. One 13-year-old girl is left to tell their story. But her stories are built around lies.
15 years later, the same girl returns to the camp to teach art and assist the owner’s new charitable endeavor. She is assigned to the same cabin that the girls disappeared from. Once again, 3 girls go missing. Something is amiss at Camp Nightingale.
The Last Time I Lied is a tension-packed, atmospheric thriller! Sager brings Camp Nightingale to life: from the eerie camp grounds, to the mysterious lake, to the campfire smoke, to the angst of the teenage campers, I was transported. This element of the novel felt so real and made this book for me!
While things start off a little slow, I was interested enough in the mystery to keep on reading. Bits and pieces are gradually revealed, dark twists and turns occur, culminating in an over-the-top ending. While this element would normally have taken me out of a book, in this instance, it had me smiling (in a good way)! Overall, The Last Time I Lied was a fun, suspenseful read that left me wanting more!
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss+ and Dutton, Penguin Books in exchange for an honest review.
2.5 Stars. I’m honestly so conflicted on this book that I don’t even want to write a review because I’m not really sure where my thoughts are. Did I like it at all? Did I absolutely hate it? I honestly can’t tell you.
CW: violence, drowning, peeping toms, cancer, schizophreniform
While I enjoyed Riley Sager’s previous work, Final Girls, I had some issues with the writing. While I do feel that many of those issues were resolved in The Last Time I Lied, I actually prefer Final Girls. Final Girls was intriguing to me as it is a twist on a famous trope in horror, whereas The Last Time I Lied is fairly similar to many thrillers out there. I do think The Last Time I Lied is a better constructed novel, but I wasn’t all that entertained by this story. By the end, I was finishing it just to finish it.
I did notice one inconsistency in the story. A significant plot point is the revelation of Emma’s past mental health history through a “background check” when she agrees to work at the camp. Immediately, this struck me as odd because in America, the HIPAA law protects your personal health information, therefore, employers have no access to medical records through background checks. It is clear Emma did not consent to providing them with this information and also unlikely the head of camp would have gone through illegal methods to obtain this info, based on the context of the camp’s re-opening. I also consulted with a professional in the mental health field who confirmed there’s no way for mental health records to be revealed in a background check without consent. This is particularly disappointing as a large part of the plot progression and why Emma is considered a non-credible witness and an unreliable narrator by readers is due to the reveal of her mental health issues as a teen. A large chunk of this story is completely invalidated because there is no way her mental health history would have been revealed in this way. I hate to be that reviewer who gets stuck on a single inconsistency about the story, but having an incorrect piece of information play a large part of your story is something that needs to be discussed. I’ve been desperately looking for a reasonable explanation, but it seems this falsehood was entirely ignored by the author/publisher.
None of the characters stood out to me. I felt almost all of them were characters I’ve read before. Excluding Emma, I found few characters to be well-developed and have a multitude of motivations. Vivian is the only notable character, but I wouldn’t consider that a compliment as the only reason she stands out is because she’s an overly-sexualized teenager written entirely through a male-gaze. She made me uncomfortable, and not in the way you want to be uncomfortable while reading a thriller.
Also, the theme of “lying” was shoved down my throat so much, it was suffocating. We get it. ~Everyone lies so we can’t trust any of the characters.~ It’s like the author thinks readers aren’t capable of figuring that out themselves. I was so over the blatant attention to lies at the very beginning of the work.
Many of the positive reviews of this novel mention the “shocking, twist ending” and I concur – the very last moments of this book caught me off guard. But it personally was not enough to save a story I didn’t fully enjoy otherwise.
I’m aware I’m the unpopular opinion for this book, but it wasn’t a great read for me. I can’t for the life of me tell you why, but I’ll probably give Riley Sager another try in the future. I guess that says something about his ability to draw in readers.
Riley Sager somehow surpasses the amazing hype surrounding his first novel, Final Girls, with an absolutely compulsively-good psychological thriller full or secrets, lies, and shocking truths that you won’t be able to put down!
I have to say, I have read some outstanding books already in 2018, but this is by far the best psychological thriller for me this year! I was captivated by this book! I have a list of quotes and notes several pages long that I pulled while reading. Since I reached the shocking ending (seriously! What an ending!!!), I have been going back to those quotes and notes and finding even more clues and meaning in them.
We read this as a Traveling Sister read, and the discussion has been so engaging and wonderful. We each are finding clues that give us a new theory about aspects of the book. I wish I could share, but you should go in and experience this one as it is written! You will find your own path through the mysterious web of truth and lies, and I think this one will keep you guessing!!
About the Book
Emma Davis was 13 years old when she first attended Camp Nightingale—a summer sleepaway camp for the upper-class girls of the northeastern states. Emma is late—her mother didn’t mention that she would be away all summer until the first day of camp—and so she is placed into a tiny cabin with popular senior campers Vivian, Natalie, and Allison. Emma immediately bonds with the beautiful, enigmatic Vivian. Vivian feels like the older sister Emma always wanted. The girls quickly engage Emma in their favorite game, two truths and a lie. The point of the game is to trick others into believing your lie. And then one night, Emma watches the girls sneak out of the cabin. By the next morning, they’ve disappeared for good, and Emma is left wondering if she could have stopped them.
At 28, Emma is a successful painter with a gallery full of her Forest series—paintings inspired by the forest at Camp Nightingale and her lingering questions around that summer. Not a day goes by that Emma doesn’t think about the three missing girls, particularly Vivian. And then Franny, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, approaches Emma with an offer—return to Camp Nightingale’s grand re-opening. Emma thinks this may be her opportunity to finally process what happened to her friends and move on for good. But all is not as it seems once she arrives at Camp Nightingale.
And a lie…
But Emma has secrets she has never revealed to anyone. About that summer. About the girls. Emma may know more about what happened than she admits. Though Emma tries to live a life of truths, she can’t seem to escape her lies that summer. And it seems that someone out there knows what Emma lied about, and is trying to make Emma pay. Can Emma find the truth before her lies catch up to her?
I cannot put into words how wonderful this book is! It has layers upon layers of secrets, lies, and mystery that I continue to peel back, even after finishing. Small moments that seemed innocuous at first reading take on so much meaning as I discovered more about the events at Camp Nightingale. The characters are all slightly unsettling in a good way. You’re never totally sure that anyone is telling the full truth. But as Vivian says, lying is how you win the game.
One of my absolute favorite things about this book was the mysterious setting of Camp Nightingale. Sager uses the setting as a character in and of itself. He says at one point, “Like most old structures, there's a heaviness to the Lodge, a somberness. I think of all the years it's witnessed. All those seasons and storms and secrets...” The description of a place as having a memory; of knowing all of the secrets, and it creating a personality to the building that may not exist if things had been different. Emma reflects at one point that she was getting reacquainted with the lake, only to then state that actually, it felt like the lake was getting reacquainted with her. And then at other times several characters mention the forest as inviting them in, and the pull it has for those at the camp. The setting of the book completely came alive through Sager’s wonderful writing. It became a force within the story that held the clues to the mystery, if only Emma could be brave enough to ask.
And finally, THAT ENDING! I can’t say much more because I refuse to spoil even a second of this wonderful ending, but boy-oh-boy was I paging back and forward, processing what I just read. I can’t wait for readers to discover this book for themselves! The entire book is a masterpiece, and one I already am planning to read again. And like all of the best books, I already know that each time I read it, I’ll get a bit more out of it.
Thank you so much to Dutton, Penguin Books, and Riley Sager for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.