Book review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Sunday, July 9, 2017 Permalink

I’d had this book on my iPad for review months before its publication date and so had almost become accustomed to seeing it sitting there – awaiting my attention – when its turn finally came around and I opened it. (Well, downloaded it in reality, but still…)

As usual I went onto the Goodreads app to add the book to my ‘currently reading’ list. And though I try to avoid seeing any other reviews before I post my own (lest I be swayed by others) I did note some rather positive comments about this book. Which I discovered – when I read it in an intense sitting – were most certainly warranted.

Book review: Final Girls by Riley SagerFinal Girls
by Riley Sager
Published by Ebury Press
on July 11th 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1785034022, 9781785034022
Pages: 368

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him.

The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

I wondered about the direction this book would take as it kicked off. The three baddies, who turned Lisa, Sam and Quincy into ‘final girls’ are all dead… so it seems there’s no mystery to be solved there. They’ve all had closure. So when Lisa’s suicide is discovered to be something else we’re forced to wonder if the girls themselves are being targeted. But by who, and why?

I hadn’t heard the term the ‘final girl’ before. It’s apparently film terminology used to describe the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie. It’s a membership Quincy certainly rejected… though of course she realises the alternative would have been worse.

Sager does a good job at developing a sense of dread, rather than one of menace. We’ve come to care for Quincy. She’s resilient and seemingly moved on from her ordeal (despite the Xanax). Not remembering the events of the night of her friends’ murders seems to have offered her some protection. But there’s a thick air of foreboding as the novel progresses. We kinda know something bad is going to happen, but not exactly sure what or why.

And we’re offered a pretty limited pool, in terms of who may be of a threat to Quincy. There’s Coop – the cop who found Quincy and who has been her rock ever since as well as Jeff, Quincy’s boyfriend of several years. And of course there’s Sam who seems to be a terrible influence on Quincy – determined to get the third final girl to remember what happened ‘that night’ in Pine Cottage.

Oh… and then of course there’s Quincy who we learn – through flashbacks – was suspected (by police other than Coop) of knowing more than she let on about her night of terror.

In the present day the story unfolds in first person from Quincy’s point of view, so she can’t really keep any secrets from us. We know that she doesn’t really remember the night at the cottage. We know she refuses to think about Him. We know He is dead. But we also know that Sam’s appearance along with Lisa’s death is sparking some memories Quincy had assumed were lost forever.

Sager inserts flashback scenes throughout the book – chronologically initially – so we learn how Quincy and her friends came to be on their trip to Pine Cottage and the events of the day prior to the murders.

In the present it’s obvious to everyone other than Quincy there’s something ‘off’ about Sam; her erratic behaviour and secretiveness is cause for concern, and of course we’re unsure what it is she wants from her new friend.

Happily Sager gives us a number of twists. I’d pondered on the various scenarios earlier in the novel but discounted them so she did a great job at keeping us guessing. She throws suspects and questions our way and then moves on. And – of course – she has us doubting Quincy… our host for this read.

I enjoyed this book and read it in a sitting. It’s well paced and we get glimpses of past events just as we need them. Quincy is likeable but complex and though Jeff and Coop seem intent to protect her, we’re not entirely sure who we can trust.

It doesn’t happen often, but I enjoyed the ending of this book. Sager offers readers answers and closure without feeling obliged to tie everything up too perfectly. So I look forward to whatever comes next from Riley Sager.

** I should mention that the name is a pseudonym, so Riley Sager could be male. I’ve only assumed female as it’s written from a female’s point of view!

This book’s an easy 4-star read for me and I’ve debated changing it to 4.5…..

Final Girls by Riley Sager will be published by Random House (Penguin) UK  and available in mid July 2017.

I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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