Two Truths and a Lie: Riley Sager’s The Last Time I lied

Before I start the actual review, let’s play Two Truths and a Lie. If you have never played, the rules are simple: I’ll give you three statements. Two are true and one is a lie. It’s up to you to decide which one is a lie.

  1. I don’t read a ton of popular thriller fiction.
  2. I loved Riley Sager’s first book: Final Girls.
  3. Nancy Drew is overrated.

 

Since we aren’t playing for real, I’ll tell you the truth: Nancy Drew is given the credit she deserves and I love her to death. Statement Three is a lie. You may be wondering why Nancy Drew would have anything to do with my review of Sager’s new book. Oh, but it does. Nancy Drew has A LOT to do with The Last Time I Lied.

The Last Time I Lied has nothing to do with Final Girls, except maybe in writing style. But even that has evolved. Sager is a much better writer in his new book, and a lot of the placating to popular thriller tropes have become more nuanced and given an original touch. This was a relief to me because I had been disappointed by a lot of aspects of Final Girls – I still loved the book as a welcome entry to the saturated thriller genre – but it was not without issues.

The Last Time I Lied is its own world – and that world would not exist without Nancy Drew. This is the book for adults that miss Nancy Drew. You know those lists on GoodReads – Read THIS if you enjoyed reading THAT – well, this book should be at the top of the Nancy Drew list.

Sager takes us to summer camp in his latest book. And it is glorious in an old-school, teen dream idyllic sense. Since this is a thriller/mystery, we know that there is an underground current of menace and dark plot points. The gleam of the sun across a clear lake make that darkness all the more creepy. This juxtaposition of setting is well done and adds to the escalating suspense as the book’s narrator, Emma, takes us along on the journey. Sager has taken the unreliable narrator trope to new heights in this book, and without giving anything away – it is vital that you question the information that Emma gives the reader. She doesn’t have the whole story, which means neither do you.

The magic of this book is in the plot twists and the final reveal – so I will refrain from too much insight into specific plot elements. It is enough to know that Sager has hit every marketable thriller requirement, and then some. The Last Time I Lied raises the bar on twisty mysteries and there is a reason that this book is on Top Ten lists. It deserves to be. The ending will leave you shaken, and scrambling backwards to see where it all was right there in front of you from the very beginning. Some characterizations are weak or stereotypically boring. In the end, the triumphs of well-executed red herrings and plot twists make up for those weaknesses. Nancy Drew would be proud.

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