The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

What secrets lurk in the dark forests surrounding Camp Nightingale? The Last Time I Lied is all about lies, truth, and sifting between the two.

The unreliable narrator of this outstanding thriller is a rising star on the New York art scene. Emma just had her first big gallery viewing and her work is drawing a lot of praise. Her art mostly focuses on dark, overgrown scenes of upstate New York, but each painting has a secret. Behind the criss-crossed vines and towering trees, hidden in the shadows of the forest, Emma paints her three friends who went missing at Camp Nightingale fifteen years earlier. Emma can’t get over the disappearance of her friends, who were never found, and she compulsively paints them, only to hide them behind layers and layers of the dark forest that seemingly swallowed them whole.

There are a few technical elements that make this novel outstanding. Firstly, it’s anything but formulaic. Too often thrillers fall into the trap of following a formula. The twists and turns in The Last Time I Lied take the reader by surprise.

Another thing that makes this novel stand out is the fantastic character writing. Emma is a very well realized character with great depth, she feels very real, and she’s very interesting. The supporting cast is also well realized, especially Vivianne, one of the girls who went missing at Camp Nightingale.

I’d describe the prose as potent and breezy. Meaning it’s very readable, this is a page-turner, but it’s also strikingly powerful.

The story is told in two distinct time periods; fifteen years earlier when Emma attended Camp Nightingale as a shy thirteen-year-old, and in the present when Emma returns to Camp Nightingale as a twenty-eight-year-old art instructor. Her reasons for returning aren’t entirely motivated by the need to nurture, no, she returns to get answers. The disappearance of the girls has haunted her, and she desperately seeks closure.

I think what makes this thriller exceptional is how it handles the mystery. There’s so much weird shit going on at this camp, including a camera pointed at Emma’s cabin, and I was constantly trying to figure it out as a reader. I never even came close to figuring out the truth until Sager revealed it. The mystery is so well handled and the truth blindsided me.

I started reading the book at about two in the afternoon. Next thing I knew it was six in the morning and I’d finished the book without taking any breaks. I sat in bed saying “holy shit” for a couple of minutes, absolutely dumbfounded at how crazy the big reveal was. I couldn’t sleep after either, I needed a few hours to settle down. My sleep cycle has been fucked ever since but I’d do it all again.

The Last Time I Lied is a truly exceptional thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page when you’ll get hit with a sledgehammer of a revelation. Highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers. Fair warning, make sure you don’t have any commitments or obligations before you start reading, this book will grab hold of you and refuse to let go.

Also, this book is being developed by Amazon. I think it’ll make a good adaptation.

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