I started off my writer-reader relationship with Riley Sager with considerable enthusiasm. Final Girls is a good novel that flirts with the conventions of slasher movie dynamics in a fun and suspenseful way. It isn't as successful or moving as Grady Hendrix's The Final Girl Support Group, but I enjoyed the novel without reservation.

I dutifully read the subsequent Sager books with decreasing enthusiasm. In a review of his last novel I referred to him as the Chubby Checker of Suspense. A guy making a living by doing the Twist. Over and over again.

Now we have the fifth novel from Riley Sager, and it is called Survive the Night. The setup isn't bad at all: A woman, Charlie, advertises for a ride on a college bulletin board, circa 1991. She gets a ride from a near-stranger, and she quickly begins to suspect he is the Campus Killer. She is obsessed by the movies and uses them as references for her own life and experiences. All good. It could be the basis for a noir classic.

But things go bad for the heroine, and the reader, very quickly.

Charlie not only loves the movies, she has a mental affliction where fictional movies occur in her mind and result in hallucinations. I don't doubt that this sort of thing is in the realm of possibility, but it seemed implausible and gimmicky in the framework of the story. Sager undoubtedly thought it was a clever plot device. I found it completely annoying.

Halfway through the book the twists started coming. Instead of adding to the suspense, they killed it dead. By the end when the final big twist was approaching, I was filled with far more dread than I felt for Charlie. I had a sinking feeling what the huge twist would be, but I hoped Sager would not resort to something as cliched, cheap, and weak as my suspicions. Nope. It happened exactly as I feared it would.

Add in a generic happy ending and a cringe-worthy cheesy last line and you get an unbearably frustrating reading experience.

Of course Sager's contemporaries are stumbling all over each other to heap praise on this ungainly mess.

Despite my love of Final Girls, Survive the Night will be the Final book I read by Riley Sager. My time is far too limited to waste on slag like this.

Written by Mark Sieber

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