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The Last Time I Lied


The Last Time I Lied

It starts simply enough with our narrator stating, “This is how it begins.” For those who enjoyed Riley Sager's debut novel, FINAL GIRLS (winner of the 2018 Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel), you will understand that the author has a way with words. You also will quickly find out that the protagonist/narrator of THE LAST TIME I LIED is not to be trusted as she is a self-confessed liar.

That premise runs through the book as the principal theme. In fact, Emma Davis, our unreliable narrator, often plays Two Truths and a Lie with her fellow cabinmates. Anyone who is familiar with this game will recognize that the goal is to get the other players to believe your lie and question the truths. Emma becomes really good at it, which keeps readers firmly on their toes throughout the proceedings as they attempt to dig through the lies to uncover the truth.

Emma is a semi-famous painter from New York City whose paintings are primarily inspired by her obsession of the past 15 years. It was that many years ago that her three cabinmates from the Dogwood cabin at Camp Nightingale disappeared one night, never to be seen again. Or did they? They actually can be seen in all of Emma's paintings. By using these lost girls --- Vivian, Natalie and Allison --- as her artistic muses, painting becomes a form of therapy for Emma.

" ideal summer read that allows you to participate in the action and try to determine what is true and what is a lie in the face of one of the most clever and unpredictable narrators in recent memory."

However much painting Emma does will not change the fact that the mystery of the missing girls still needs to be solved. Also, the accusations she made publicly about Theo, the adopted son of the billionaire owner of Camp Nightingale, Franny Harris-White, represent unresolved relationships in her life. So how ironic it is that Franny contacts Emma 15 years after Camp Nightingale closed in shame and scandal to offer her an opportunity to come back to the newly reopened camp as their art instructor. Emma accepts, not because of the chance to be gainfully employed with regular income for the summer, but out of curiosity surrounding what and who she will find upon her return.

Legend claimed that Franny's wealthy ancestors sought to take over the property that later became Camp Nightingale but found themselves dealing with either a leper colony or a home for the deaf that refused to vacate their residence. The legend continues to tell the horrific tale that the nearby dam was breached, flooding the entire area and putting the colony/home at the bottom of what is now called Lake Midnight. The girls in Emma's cabin shared this spooky campfire tale, alleging that the lost souls at the bottom of Lake Midnight would come to exact their revenge upon the living.

In present day, Emma finds herself back in Dogwood cabin with three teen girls who are now her students. Miranda, Sasha and Krystal represent a way for Emma to find the answers that have haunted her, for she believes that the one thing worse than death is not knowing. However, Franny and her now-grown sons, Theo and Chet, may have ulterior motives for asking Emma back. To begin with, they expose her past, which involved years of therapy and suffering from a form of schizophrenia. They also make it clear that the scrutiny Theo and Chet had to go through from Emma's accusations is still not fully forgiven. When Emma finds a camera planted outside her cabin, filming all comings and goings, she realizes she is not trusted and will have to be very careful when conducting her own investigation into her long-lost cabinmates.

Emma begins piecing together clues that Vivian left around Camp Nightingale and the surrounding area. She hopes that Vivian, of whom she still sees regular visions, will help lead her to the truth. Of course, the inevitable happens when the three new Dogwood residents disappear one night. The only clue left behind is Emma's missing bracelet found at the bottom of one of the rowboats off of Lake Midnight. It's time to relive the same horror all over again, only this time Emma is now the prime suspect in the disappearance of Miranda, Sasha and Krystal. The only way to solve the present mystery is to solve the riddles of the past and sort out the truth from all the lies.

Riley Sager has done it again! THE LAST TIME I LIED hooks you in from the opening words and never releases you until the stunning conclusion. It’s an ideal summer read that allows you to participate in the action and try to determine what is true and what is a lie in the face of one of the most clever and unpredictable narrators in recent memory.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 19, 2018

The Last Time I Lied
by Riley Sager