Reviewed by Jody Uy
THE LAST TIME I LIED
By Riley Sager
384 pp. Dutton.
Growing up in a crime-loving, suspense-thirsty family has given me something of a love-hate relationship with the genre. While I do love a great twist and the heart-pumping adrenaline of a thriller, I also can’t stand the tension of not knowing and the creepy ways people are able to kill off characters (I was never that great with gore and blood). You can imagine my mixed reaction then upon being handed The Last Time I Lied, which is a suspense thriller with a pretty intimidating cover (yeah okay, I’m a huge scaredy cat).
Emma, currently a rising artist, is plagued with the memories of her first and last camp experience—one riddled with laughter, gossip, sister-figures, and harshly punctuated by the deadly disappearance of her three cabinmates. After an unexpected turn of events, she accepts a job at the camp and is forced to face her nightmares, and ends up uncovering things far more dangerous and deadly than the haunting echoes of her past.
One of the things that immediately drew me into the book was its careful interplay of page-flipping mystery and mind-boggling psychological thriller. The setting of the camp sets the tone for the whole story to unfold, allowing a Pandora’s box of creepy scenarios to be opened. There’s a murky lake that hides far too many secrets, and then there’s the forest with its twisting tendrils pulling you deeper in as a reader too. The mystery from fifteen years ago and the events of the present overlap and blur into each other in ways that complicate things even further. At one point, the main character teeters on the brink of insanity as her whole world begins to crumble under the weight of the disappearances in the camp. It’s a long and slow journey up to that point, but one that makes complete sense as the story begins to unravel. Hidden secrets from the past are opened up slowly with each chapter (sometimes rather agonizingly slow), keeping you focused on the inner struggles of guilt and fear that seize the main character instead.
While the book does shine in its ability to paint a vivid picture of mystery, I did find other aspects of the novel difficult to stomach at times. There’s a sliver of romance, for example, that feels contrived and somewhat out of place, and other characters that have the potential to explode with personality and complexity are overlooked and fade into the background of the forest.
Despite these, however, I still think it is an entertaining read for anyone looking to be sucked in by a creepy mystery. There’s a huge sucker punch somewhere past midway through the book that had me rereading the entire chapter in awe, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As the situation escalates, the entire cast of characters becomes untrustworthy, and even the narrator herself becomes someone you can’t fully trust (which is a really peculiar and fun experience as a reader). The ending can be taken in many ways as well, but it ends on a note that leaves the reader’s thirst for a good twist satisfied.
Overall, the book was a change in pace from the novels I’m used to sloughing through that I really appreciated. The Last Time I Lied builds up tension in slow and steady increments, and digs deep into both the mystery and the troubled girl at its very core.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager is available at Fully Booked stores and Fully Booked Online.
Jody is currently an undergraduate student taking up Education and is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. When she’s not drowning in readings for class, she drowns herself in music, books, and the wonders of the Internet. You can find her on Instagram @ohfishness.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]