Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.
Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?
What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night. (Goodreads)
Before I begin my review I thought I’d share my quest in attempting to obtain an eARC of Survive the Night. I requested it on NetGalley and as I had been approved for two Riley Sager’s previous books : Final Girls (2017) and Home Before Dark (2020), I figured for sure I’d be approved. Well that little bubble of arrogance was burst when I was turned down not only on NetGalley but also Edelweiss. Disappointed, yet still determined, I emailed the publisher explaining that I was turned down but that I was a huge fan of the author. I even provided links to my reviews of not only Mr. Sager’s books but other ones from Dutton Books that I had been approved for and reviewed. Much to my dismay I was politely told that they’d keep me in mind. And you know what happened? Crickets. Over the last several months I tried reaching out a couple of more times, but fearing that they might think me a stalker and take out a restraining order against me, I finally gave up. Then I began to sulk and thought to myself that if Dutton Books no longer thought I was good enough to read and review their books, fine, I wouldn’t! I know. This wasn’t my finest moment. Well, I’ve made it past my rebellious sulk, splurged and bought a copy, and I’m glad I did because I gobbled up Survive the Night in one sitting.
I have to be honest and say I had a problem with Charlie in the beginning. I mean, who gets into a car with a stranger shortly after their best friend falls victim to a serial killer who’s been stalking the campus and still hasn’t been caught? And this isn’t the only questionable decision she makes through the next six hours. However, the more I found out about Charlie’s background the more I was able to give her a little leeway. Charlie is obviously an unreliable character, but I wound up finding her surprisingly likable and sympathetic even though I wanted to take her by the shoulders a few times and shake her. Unsurprisingly, given this is Riley Sager, there is more than one twist. A couple I saw coming, but one, concerning Josh, I did not. For all that a good portion of the story takes place in a car, the pace is surprisingly fast and I found it impossible to put down. The ending left me a little torn as I’m not thrilled with who Charlie winds up with, but it’s imaginative and unique which is another aspect that Sager is known for.
Overall, Survive the Night is another winner that will standout in this year’s crowded field of new thrillers, thanks to its engaging protagonist, nostalgic setting of the 90s and creative inclusion of classic cinema. Riley Sager is someone who’s not afraid to take chances with his stories and characters, which is why he’s become one of my favorite authors in the mystery/thriller/horror genres in such a few short years. As most of you know I try to avoid spoilers of any kind in my reviews, and with this I’ve taken particular pains not to because I think it’s a story that’s even more enjoyable if you go in blind. Whether you’re already a fan of Sager, or if you’re new to his writing, but you’re looking for an unputdownable read, you’re going to want to snap this up from your favorite book retailer or local library!