Hodder & Stoughton | 29 July 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Purchased 

The year is 1991. College student Charlie Jordan is grieving over the death of her best friend, Maddy. Also plagued with guilt, Charlie felt she was indirectly responsible for Maddy's death since she'd left her alone at a bar late one night over a squabble. Charlie didn't get a chance to reconcile with her ever again, because Maddy fell victim to the murderer who's dubbed the Campus Killer since all his victims were killed near the campus. Charlie decides to leave the campus but with her boyfriend, Robbie, being busy (unless she could wait a bit but no) and she doesn't drive (for a reason after her parents' accident), she put up a flyer at the campus ride board so that someone would share the ride to her hometown in Ohio. 

Josh Baxter answers to Charlie's flyer, claiming that he's to return home to take care of his father who's sick. Despite Charlie's doubts about Josh from his behaviour of hiding his view from her when he packs her suitcase into his car trunk, she hops into his car nonetheless and even chides herself to have some trust and faith in people. As they begin their journey and their conversations start to flow, Charlie soon realises that there's something suspicious about Josh and that there're holes in his story about his father. However, Charlie isn't sure about her judgement because at times when she's under stress or fear, her mind would conjure up some "movie moments" in which she herself wouldn't differentiate if she's in reality or in her own movie-fueled imaginations (she's a big fan of movies, especially Hitchcock's). And this begins the cat-and-mouse game of a story with an unreliable character who has to survive the night. 

I've to confess I'm a huge fan of Riley Sager's books and I've read all of his books todate, but this latest release was a huge disappointment. To begin with, I was horrified to see that Charlie hopped into a stranger's car despite her doubts and the fact that a killer is still on the loose. This may be a fiction, but in reality it's a BIG no-no no matter whatever the circumstances are. Then, there's Charlie's movie-fueled moments (which I wasn't sure if there's such a mental issue or perhaps similar to hallucinations?) and a few chances that she could escape but decided not to because she wants to be the one to stop Josh from committing more murders. However, this isn't as straightforward as far as the plot goes because there're twists and it becomes more mind-boggling (and absurd) as the story reaches its final destination. I hate to say this, but this story totally didn't work for me but onto a positive note, it was entertaining and a page-turner! That said, I'd had a great time reading and discussing this book with Lark (go check out her review here) and both of us decided to skip the Q&As for this round of our buddy read since we couldn't come up with any interesting questions. All being said, I'll still anticipate for Sager's future releases and I hope his next book will be better.  
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13 Responses
  1. I read all of the authors previous books as well and liked them but, the fact Charlie seems so clueless has made me put this one on the back burner.

  2. cleemckenzie Says:

    I've read two books this year that I more or less backed out of because I couldn't "buy" what a character chose to do. These choices were similar to the one you mentioned about getting into a car with a stranger even when your common sense dictated otherwise. There has to be some compelling motivation to make me buy into actions like that.

  3. jenclair Says:

    Doesn't sound as if I need this one.

  4. So, I'll definitely be skipping this one!

  5. Lark Says:

    This one was definitely not as good as Sager's other books. I sent you a list of possible buddy reads for January that will hopefully be better. Fingers crossed! :)

  6. Melody Says:

    Diane - Charlie was an interesting character but her doubts and the decisions she made made it a frustrating read. And that ending was too over the top.

  7. Melody Says:

    Cleemckenzie - I totally agree with you about having some compelling motivation and not just a convenient excuse or plan to move a story. I've read several books of the same genre with actions that seemed implausible. Twisty endings are good but only if they're not overly done simply for shock value.

  8. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - Probably a miss. Hopefully the next book will be something different.

  9. Melody Says:

    Dorothy - Miss this book but read his other books. :)

  10. Melody Says:

    Lark - I suppose not all of our favourite authors' books are stellar. Thanks for your list and I've replied to your email earlier. Hopefully that book would be a good one. ;)

  11. Iliana Says:

    I think the fact that she jumps in a car with a stranger knowing there's a killer around is just so stupid that it's hard to believe that the character would do this. What a bummer this one wasn't a better read but hopefully his next book will be more of what you are expecting!

  12. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I know right? What Charlie did makes no sense at all but simply a plot to keep the story going. Oh well.

  13. Susan Says:

    I feel the same way, although I think I liked this one more than you did. Funny enough, the college I went to had a ride board (an actual bulletin board because there was no Internet back then) and it was very popular. Lots of strangers riding with strangers and no cell phones to keep track of everybody. That sounds terrifying to me now!

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