Sager’s second thriller is as tense and twisty as his best-selling Final Girls (2017), but this one is even more polished, with gut-wrenching plot surprises skillfully camouflaged by Emma’s paranoia and confusion, the increasingly creepy setting, and a cast of intriguingly secretive characters.
While Sager attempts to explore the intense dynamics within adolescent female friendships, an overly large cast of thinly sketched characters undermines the effort, and genre fans searching for more than the requisite ingredients of a solid thriller may find themselves unsatisfied. The book’s most vibrant exchanges take place in the past, between younger Emma and Vivian, the Queen Bee of Nightingale, who seduced Emma as only a wiser, more sophisticated girl could ... Compared to the piercing Vivian-Emma relationship, however, the rest of the female campers feel extraneous. Indeed, sometimes the only way to keep track of the many characters is by relying on the stereotypes employed to introduce them in rapid succession ... in the end, the author delivers the kind of unpredictable conclusion that all thriller readers crave—utterly shocking yet craftily foreshadowed. For some readers, though, these might be the only pages that linger.
The first half of The Last Time I Lied is sleekly written and involving. The second part seems to meander, then erupts in an abundance of physical action. Readers who persist to the novel’s truth-or-lie ending will be rewarded, though, with a startling, film-noir turn of fate.