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Final Girls


Final Girls

In the wake of GONE GIRL, we have seen a stream of terrific new voices in the thriller genre. Gillian Flynn's juggernaut of a bestseller was more of a phenomenon than a novel, but it once again put strong women at the center of a genre that typically used female characters more as victims than aggressors. The floodgates have now opened, and in poured great new authors like Paula Hawkins, Ruth Ware and B.A. Paris.

I offer up the name Riley Sager as an addition to this list. As a longtime subscriber to Entertainment Weekly, I was fortunate to have been given a heads-up to FINAL GIRLS several months ago in an issue that predicted some of the big-impact items on popular culture for 2017. Sager's debut novel also received the ultimate pre-release praise when Stephen King lauded it as “the first great thriller of 2017.” High praise indeed in a year that has seen many quality thriller releases.

"Riley Sager will be hard-pressed to top this stunning debut that forces the reader into the shoes of Quincy Carpenter and immediately has you realizing that everyone and everything in your life may not be as they seem."

FINAL GIRLS is a novel that is hard to categorize. It dances on a thin tightrope between thriller and horror while the entire time paying great respect to classic horror noir films, slasher flicks and a nice shout-out to the papa of all serial killer novels, Thomas Harris' THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Quincy Carpenter is the initial heroine of the book, but as the title relates, there are a handful of young women whose damaged lives are at the center of this tale.

The definition Sager gives for “Final Girls” relates directly to survivors of a massacre or serial-killer murder spree. When the first of these young women, Lisa Milner, is found dead as the victim of an apparent suicide, it sends a shock wave through the other survivors who are still out there. Was this a private issue where someone could no longer deal with the constant pain of the horrific memories brought on by her ordeal, or is this the start of a new murder spree where the intended victims are other Final Girls?

This death hits Quincy particularly hard. She is part of the Final Girls club as she was the sole survivor of the tragedy henceforth labeled the Massacre at Pine Cottage. She and a group of college friends were off on a weekend trip in the woods. By the end of that bloody weekend, Quincy would be the only person to walk away with her life.

Quincy and her friends took in a stranger who was seeking shelter. Most of what occurred after that is a blur; all she knows is that she was the last person standing. The one individual she has been able to reach out to as a beacon of light from that tragic weekend was one of the responding officers who she now refers to as just Coop. Quincy's boyfriend, the up-and-coming attorney Jeff, does not particularly care for Coop and feels he causes her wounds to fester rather than heal from the pain she lived through.

Quincy is suddenly visited by a person whose name was known to her but was otherwise a stranger. Samantha Boyd seeks Quincy out, and through a great deal of persistence gets the reluctant Quincy to team with her. You see, Samantha herself was another member of the Final Girls and is convinced there is someone out there hunting them down. When Quincy allows Samantha to temporarily move in to her posh NYC apartment, she slowly realizes it may have been a bad decision. Jeff is not at all happy with this new living arrangement, and Samantha's sometimes bizarre behavior makes Quincy question whose side she’s really on.

FINAL GIRLS is never predictable and is not recommended for those with weak constitutions, as the tension and horrors that lurk seemingly around every corner are sure to make the stoutest heart skip a beat. Riley Sager will be hard-pressed to top this stunning debut that forces the reader into the shoes of Quincy Carpenter and immediately has you realizing that everyone and everything in your life may not be as they seem. This could be the perfect “beach book” for the summer of 2017. Dive in, but make sure a lifeguard is nearby!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 28, 2017

Final Girls
by Riley Sager