The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she—or anyone—saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings—massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.
And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.
This is my second book by Riley Sager now and I must say I will be reading everything from now on. I love mysteries and this book definitely had me guessing a lot. I did guess right on one thing, but not the other (and the clues were there). I was also second guessing myself as the story played out.
As with all mysteries, I have to be careful with how much I mention. I will do my very best not to give anything away.
This book is basically Emma’s story, but it does involve a lot of other people. We go back and forth in time. Present and 15 years earlier at Camp Nightingale. The camp was run by a woman named Franny. Her family had a lot of money and the lake there was created by a grandfather (great?). Unfortunately, the camp closed down 15 years ago after a major tragedy.
Emma is now an artist. Every one of her paintings have three girls and then she paints over them. She can’t stop herself. Emma went to camp for one year when she was 13. She was a late arrival and ended up rooming with three older girls (16 and 17). Vivian was the queen b leader. The one that acts super nice, but then is a total b before going back to nice. She acted older and flirted a lot with the older teens working there. Natalie and Allison pretty much followed whatever Vivian did. They all went to school together. Even though Emma was young and afraid, she stood up to Vivian the first night. That made Viv decide to be a big sister to Em. She could see something in her that reminded Vivian of herself. Emma followed Vivian obsessively. Emma also had a major crush on Franny’s 19 year old son that was going to Harvard. Chet was the younger brother that adored Theo. Both boys were adopted and Franny was not young at the time. Her husband drowned and she never remarried. Just adopted the boys. Their family had a lot of money.
One night, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison go missing. Emma implies early in the story that she told some lies about that night and has a lot of guilt. It’s why she paints the girls. So when Franny shows up at one of her art shows and invites Emma to her home, Emma agrees to go. Franny is opening the camp again and she wants Emma to teach art for the summer. While she had some issues with it, Emma decides to go so that she can solve the mystery of what happened to her friends. A few people from 15 years ago (plus the family/groundskeeper/etc) come back and there are a new group of girls. Emma has to stay in a cabin (the same one she was in before) with three new campers that she grows close to. Emma starts finding clues from her past, but someone is also messing with her. Things start to go wrong and Emma wonders if she’s just going crazy. The family obviously had some doubts because they put a security camera facing Emma’s cabin door. And only that one.
No one seems to trust anyone. Everyone is keeping secrets. And everyone lies. There were a couple shocking moments and the pacing was great. I flew through the book and can’t wait to read Riley’s next book.
I gave this book 5 stars.
Warnings for all the typical things you see in mystery/thrillers similar to this one. Missing children, bullying, lying, death, talk of drowning, inappropriate relationships, sex, spying/peeping. This is an adult book, not YA.
Have you read The Last Time I Lied? Do you enjoy Riley Sager’s books? I see mixed reviews (but that’s pretty typical for books like this).