Hodder & Stoughton | 29 July 2021 | 336 pgs
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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