Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Published July 2017 (HB), 25th January (PB) by Ebury (UK)
Well, as far as psychological thrillers go, this one certainly has an original plot! We’ve all seen those teen horror movies, where from a group of friends, only one survives a horrific massacre. Riley Sager’s Final Girls takes this concept and adds a new twist, by revisiting Quincy, survivor of an horrific holiday cottage massacre years after her ordeal. She’s doing her best to put the past behind her – she’s avoided the media, has a successful career and a fantastic fiance. To all intents and purposes, she got it together and isn’t letting the past hold her back. But inside, she’s still struggling to come to terms with that awful night, and the guilt of being one of three “Final Girls” – a small group sharing a similar traumatic experience. But when fellow final girl, Lisa, is found dead in an apparent suicide and Sam, mysterious and enigmatic third sole survivor turns up apparently seeking support from Quincy, it would seem her ordeal isn’t quite over just yet.
I loved the concept of this book, and thought it started really well. Quincy is clearly just about holding it together and with most of that terrible night a blank, I was intrigued to know what had happened. When Lisa is killed and Sam shows up, the tension builds and it’s clear Sam isn’t exactly who she seems. There’s a creepy, unsettling feeling about her, and my hackles where raised where she was concerned right from the start.
I did feel the book dipped in pace and lost some tension a little after the first fifty pages, although the interspersing of flashbacks to Pine Cottage kept me interested enough to carry on and find out just what had happened all those years ago and how it was connected to the death of one of the other Final Girls. Then around the half way mark, boy did it pick up again! As I raced towards the dramatic climax, I was surprised by some twists I hadn’t seen coming, and even though I knew something was amiss, I hadn’t expected it to turn out as unexpectedly as it did.
I mostly thought the character of Quincy was very well written, and the turmoil, guilt and need to not be a victim came across convincingly. However, I didn’t connect with her as much as I felt I should have, possibly because the author lead the reader to question Quincy’s reliability as a character too, which unfortunately left me feeling slightly detached.
Overall, I thought this was a good read. A unique and fascinating plot, some unexpected twists and turns and enough tension and intrigue to keep me reading. Although I found the pace a little slow going at times, I was glad I kept reading and felt the second half of the book redeemed it, with me reading it in one breathless chunk. If you’re looking for a new twist on your psychological thrillers with a hint of horror, then this may be the book for you.