Thursday, June 29, 2017

Final Girls, by Riley Sager

 A decent thriller, but don't get sucked in by the hype.....

   Riley Sager's FINAL GIRLS is being hyped to the moon and back by publisher Dutton, aided by a glowing endorsement by Stephen King, who called it "The first great thriller of 2017", and such blurbs as "THIS IS THE BEST BOOK OF 2017.", and "Smart and provocative, with plenty of twists and turns." I'm pretty jaded, but I'm always up for a few twists and turns in my fiction, so I picked up my review copy and dove in.

 As I said, I'm pretty jaded. I'm the guy that sees the twists coming a mile away, and I had this book's big twist pegged almost from the get-go. I'm not bragging, or trying to act like I'm some kind of super-genius reader....but when you've seen thousands of movies, read thousands of books, and consumed hundreds of thousands of comic-books, chances are that you've seen something before that will lead you to figuring out the ending before most of your friends will. So, twists and turns......not really.

 Moving on from that disappointment, the story itself, once it kicks into gear, is fairly enjoyable. (It does take quite a while to get going, though.) Anyone who has ever seen a slasher film will be aware of the concept of a "Final girl".....A smart, attractive, usually chaste, girl, who manages to survive the serial killer while all around her succumbed, she inevitably takes a beating, but manages to overcome (And usually kill....) her attacker. Quincy Carpenter is just such a girl.

 The lone survivor of the infamous "Pine Cottage Massacre", Quincy has been slowly rebuilding her shattered life, and has settled into a manageable, if somewhat lonely, routine. That routine is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Samantha Boyd, another celebrated "Final Girl". Samantha was the lone survivor of a slaughter at The Nightlight Inn, and has been living in seclusion ever since. Sam, as she prefers to be called, has emerged from isolation thanks to the suicide of Lisa Milner, the original last girl standing.

 Sam has arrived to see if Quincy is dealing well with the news of Lisa's suicide, but her impromptu visit soon turns into an extended stay in Quincy's guest room, and it doesn't take long before Samantha has insinuated herself into every aspect of Quincy's life. In short order, Quincey is drinking, popping Xanax by the handful, and indulging in all sorts of self-destructive behavior with Sam.....but an incident in Central Park causes Quincy to question what Sam is really after, and her inquiries into Sam's past will force her to confront the truth behind the Pine Cottage Massacre that she has kept buried in her own subconscious......

 Once the book actually gets going, it was fairly enjoyable. At least, as enjoyable as a book totally lacking in sympathetic characters can be. Quincy is a bit of a self-centered jerk, and she does some remarkably stupid things over the course of her story. The book is well-written enough to make up for the unlikable lead, though.

 Speaking of the author: Dutton has been stringing out the mystery of "Who is Riley Sager?", dropping bread crumbs such as Sager being a previously published author writing under a pseudonym. I must be the only person on earth who actually reads the indicia page, because it says right there "Copyright 2017 by Todd Ritter". So...mystery solved. Riley Sager is Todd Ritter. Someone at Dutton screwed that up big-time.

 FINAL GIRLS is a well-written thriller, but it'll probably be more enjoyable to readers who only occasionally slum in horror movies and thriller novels. If you've seen a Freddy or Jason movie before, or read a mystery, this book will hold no surprises for you.

 FINAL GIRLS earns seven out of ten knives:

 Dutton provided a review copy.

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