What did I just read?! I am normally a fan of Riley Sager’s books, but this was fell really short of my expectations for a good thriller.
I won’t rehash what other bloggers and reviewers have said at length, but I’ll highlight what I personally did and did not like about this book.
What I liked about the book was the format. I like that it took place during a short period of time (this aspect of the book reminded me of Taylor Adams’ No Exit, which I enjoyed) and that the clock was ticking. This made the story more tense and gave it a clear beginning and end. I liked that the main character, Charlie, was a movie fan and referenced movie quotes and scenes throughout the book. I also loved that was it set in the 80s as a child of the 80s. If it had been set in 2021, the story wouldn’t work.
Why? A cell phone and Uber would have prevented most of what happens in this book…but so would common sense, which brings me to what I did not like about the book.
What I didn’t like is essentially what ruined the story for me. Charlie lost her parents to a car crash and her roommate and friend to a serial killer who targets women on college campuses. Charlie is leaving campus for good after the latter tragedy, and decides to take a ride from a seemingly innocent guy named Josh. Josh is a complete stranger she just happened to meet while looking at her college’s job board. You might be wondering why the heck someone whose roommate was killed by a serial killer would take a random stranger’s offer for a ride home. Yeah, me too. This is simply the first choice among many Charlie makes that places her in the hands of danger.
Charlie makes SO MANY bad decisions that you will find yourself yelling at her by the first page or two of the book. Despite surviving the deaths of her friend and her parents, she is passive and helpless. She has so many opportunities to get help, but she doesn’t. The ending of the novel is the absolute worst, because she makes yet another terrible life choice that once again puts her in harm’s way.
I don’t know if Sager intentionally set out to write about a helpless, weak, clueless female character, but he did. I found it insulting because it really did not capture the spirit of the times. Women in the 80s and early 90s were writing and singing about challenging the patriarchy. I can’t imagine a character who is so into movies would not be aware of the music scene that is an equally essential part of a movie (aka the soundtrack). There are SO many fantastic soundtracks from this time period….so yeah, this was a disappointing and maddening read for this feminist who grew up during the time period in which this book was supposed to take place.
I did not receive an ARC for this review. I stopped receiving Sager ARCs once he became big 🙂