WINNER OF THE 2018 INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS AWARD FOR BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
“The first great thriller of 2017 is here: Final Girls, by Riley Sager. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like this.”—Stephen King
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 Final Girl, 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.
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My hands are covered in frosting when Jeff calls. Despite my best efforts, the French buttercream has oozed onto my knuckles and into the hammocks between my fingers, sticking there like paste. Only one pinkie finger remains unscathed, and I use it to tap the speakerphone button.
"Carpenter and Richards, private investigators," I say, imitating the breathy voice of a film noir secretary. "How may I direct your call?"
Jeff plays along, his tough-guy tone pitched somewhere between Robert Mitchum and Dana Andrews. "Put Miss Carpenter on the horn. I need to talk to her pronto."
"Miss Carpenter is busy with an important case. May I take a message?"
"Yeah," Jeff says. "Tell her my flight from Chi-Town has been delayed."
My faade drops. "Oh, Jeff. Really?"
"Sorry, hon. The perils of flying out of the Windy City."
"How long is the delay?"
"Anywhere from two hours to maybe-I'll-be-home-by-next-week," Jeff says. "I'm at least hoping it's long enough for me to miss the start of Baking Season."
"No such luck, pal."
"How's it going, by the way?"
I look down at my hands. "Messy."
Baking Season is Jeff's name for the exhausting stretch between early October and late December, when all those dessert-heavy holidays arrive without reprieve. He likes to say it ominously, raising his hands and wiggling his fingers like spider legs.
Ironically, it's a spider that's caused my hands to be coated in buttercream. Made of double-dark chocolate frosting, its stomach teeters on the edge of a cupcake while black legs stretch across the top and down the sides. When I'm finished, the cupcakes will be posed, photographed, and displayed on my website's roster of Halloween baking ideas. This year's theme is "Revenge of the Yummy."
"How's the airport?" I ask.
"Crowded. But I think I'll survive by hitting the terminal bar."
"Call me if the delay gets any worse," I say. "I'll be here, covered in icing."
"Bake like the wind," Jeff replies.
Call over, it's back to the buttercream spider and the chocolate-cherry cupcake it partly covers. If I've done it right, the red center should ooze out at first bite. That test will come later. Right now, my chief concern is the outside.
Decorating cupcakes is harder than it seems. Especially when the results will be posted online for thousands to see. Smudges and smears aren't allowed. In a high-def world, flaws loom large.
That's one of the Ten Commandments on my website, squeezed between Measuring Cups Are Your Friends and Don't Be Afraid to Fail.
I finish the first cupcake and am working on the second when my phone rings again. This time there's not even a clean pinkie finger at my disposal, and I'm forced to ignore it. The phone continues to buzz while shimmying across the countertop. It then goes silent, pausing a moment before emitting a telltale beep.
Curious, I drop the icing bag, wipe my hands, and check the phone. It's from Coop.
We need to talk. Face 2 face.
My fingers pause above the screen. Although it takes Coop three hours to drive into Manhattan, it's a trip he's willingly made many times in the past. When it's important.
I text back. When?
His reply arrives in seconds. Now. Usual place.
A spot of worry presses the base of my spine. Coop is already here. Which means only one thing-something is wrong.
Before leaving, I rush through my usual preparations for a meeting with Coop. Teeth brushed. Lips glossed. Tiny Xanax popped. I wash the little blue pill down with some grape soda drunk straight from the bottle.
In the elevator, it occurs to me that I should have changed clothes. I'm still in my baking wear: black jeans, one of Jeff's old button-downs, and red flats. All bear flecks of flour and faded splotches of food coloring. I notice a scrape of dried frosting on the back of my hand, skin peeking through the blue-black smear. It resembles a bruise. I lick it off.
Outside on Eighty-Second Street, I make a right onto Columbus, already packed with pedestrians. My body tightens at the sight of so many strangers. I stop and shove stiff fingers into my purse, searching for the can of pepper spray always kept there. There's safety in numbers, yes, but also uncertainty. It's only after finding the pepper spray that I start walking again, my face puckered into a don't-bother-me scowl.
Although the sun is out, a tangible chill stings the air. Typical for early October in New York, when the weather seems to randomly veer between hot and cold. Yet fall is definitely making its swift approach. When Theodore Roosevelt Park comes into view, the leaves there are poised between green and gold.
Through the foliage, I can see the back of the American Museum of Natural History, which on this morning is swarmed with school kids. Their voices flit like birds among the trees. When one of them shrieks, the rest go silent. Just for a second. I freeze on the sidewalk, unnerved not by the shriek but by the silence that follows. But then the children's voices start up again and I calm down. I resume walking, heading to a cafe two blocks south of the museum.
Our usual place.
Coop is waiting for me at a table by the window, looking the same as always. That sharp, craggy face that appears pensive in times of repose, such as now. A body that's both long and thick. Large hands, one of which bears a ruby class ring instead of a wedding band. The only change is his hair, which he keeps trimmed close to the scalp. Each meeting always brings a few more flecks of gray.
His presence in the cafe is noticed by all the nannies and caffeinated hipsters who crowd the place. Nothing like a cop in full uniform to put people on edge. Even without it, Coop cuts an intimidating figure. He's a big man, consisting of rolling hills of muscle. The starched blue shirt and black trousers with the knife-edge creases only amplify his size. He lifts his head as I enter, and I notice the exhaustion in his eyes. He must have driven here directly from working the third shift.
Two mugs are already on the table. Earl Grey with milk and extra sugar for me. Coffee for Coop. Black. Unsweetened.
"Quincy," he says, nodding.
There's always a nod. It's Coop's version of a handshake. We never hug. Not since the desperate one I gave him the night we first met. No matter how many times I see him, that moment is always there, playing on a loop until I push it away.
They're dead, I had choked out while clutching him, the words gurgling thickly in the back of my throat. They're all dead. And he's still out here.
Ten seconds later, he saved my life.
"This is certainly a surprise," I say as I take a seat. There's a tremor in my voice that I try to tamp down. I don't know why Coop's called me, but if it's bad news, I want to be calm when I hear it.
"You're looking well," Coop says while giving me the quick, concerned once-over I'm now accustomed to. "But you've lost some weight."
There's worry in his voice too. He's thinking about six months after Pine Cottage, when my appetite had left me so completely that I ended up back in the hospital, force-fed through a tube. I remember waking to find Coop standing by my bed, staring at the plastic hose slithered up my nostril.
Don't disappoint me, Quincy, he said then. You didn't survive that night just to die like this.
"It's nothing," I say. "I've finally learned I don't have to eat everything I bake."
"And how's that going? The baking thing?"
"Great, actually. I gained five thousand followers last quarter and got another corporate advertiser."
"That's great," Coop says. "Glad everything is going well. One of these days, you should actually bake something for me."
Like the nod, this is another of Coop's constants. He always says it, never means it.
"How's Jefferson?" he asks.
"He's good. The Public Defender's Office just made him the lead attorney on a big, juicy case."
I leave out how the case involves a man accused of killing a narcotics detective in a bust gone wrong. Coop already looks down on Jeff's job. There's no need to toss more fuel onto that particular fire.
"Good for him," he says.
"He's been gone the past two days. Had to fly to Chicago to get statements from family members. Says it'll make a jury more sympathetic."
"Hmm," Coop replies, not quite listening. "I guess he hasn't proposed yet."
I shake my head. I told Coop I thought Jeff was going to propose on our August vacation to the Outer Banks, but no ring so far. That's the real reason I've recently lost weight. I've become the kind of girlfriend who takes up jogging just to fit into a hypothetical wedding dress.
"Still waiting," I say.
"And what about you?" I ask, only half teasing. "Have you finally found a girlfriend?"
I arch a brow. "A boyfriend?"
"This visit is about you, Quincy," Coop says, not even cracking a smile.
"Of course. You ask. I answer."
That's how things go between us when we meet once, twice, maybe three times a year.
More often than not, the visits resemble therapy sessions, with me never getting a chance to ask Coop questions of my own. I'm only privy to the basics of his life. He's forty-one, spent time in the Marines before becoming a cop, and had barely shed his rookie status before finding me screaming among the trees. And while I know he still patrols the same town where all those horrible things happened, I have no idea if he's happy. Or satisfied. Or lonely. I never hear from him on holidays. Never once got a Christmas card. Nine years earlier, at my father's funeral, he sat in the back row and slipped out of the church before I could even thank him for coming. The closest he gets to showing affection is on my birthday, when he sends the same text: Another year you almost didn't get. Live it.
"Jeff will come around," Coop says, again bending the conversation to his will. "It'll happen at Christmas, I bet. Guys like to propose then."
He takes a gulp of coffee. I sip my tea and blink, keeping my eyes shut an extra beat, hoping the darkness will allow me to feel the Xanax taking hold. Instead, I'm more anxious than when I walked in.
I open my eyes to see a well-dressed woman entering the cafe with a chubby, equally well-dressed toddler. An au pair, probably. Most women under thirty in this neighborhood are. On warm, sunny days they jam the sidewalks-a parade of interchangeable girls fresh out of college, armed with lit degrees and student loans. The only reason this one catches my attention is because we look alike. Fresh-faced and well scrubbed. Blond hair reined in by a ponytail. Neither too thin nor too plump. The product of hearty, milk-fed Midwestern stock.
That could have been me in a different life. One without Pine Cottage and blood and a dress that changed colors like in some horrible dream.
That's something else I think about every time Coop and I meet-he thought my dress was red. He'd whispered it to the dispatcher when he called for backup. It's on both the police transcript, which I've read multiple times, and the dispatch recording, which I managed to listen to only once.
Someone's running through the trees. Caucasian female. Young. She's wearing a red dress. And she's screaming.
I was running through the trees. Galloping, really. Kicking up leaves, numb to the pain coursing through my entire body. And although all I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears, I was indeed screaming. The only thing Coop got wrong was the color of my dress.
It had, until an hour earlier, been white.
Some of the blood was mine. The rest belonged to the others. Janelle, mostly, from when I held her moments before I got hurt.
I'll never forget the look on Coop's face when he realized his mistake. That slight widening of the eyes. The oblong shape of his mouth as he tried to keep it from dropping open. The startled huffing sound he made. Two parts shock, one part pity.
It's one of the few things I actually can remember.
My experience at Pine Cottage is broken into two distinct halves. There's the beginning, fraught with fear and confusion, in which Janelle lurched out of the woods, not yet dead but well on her way. Then there's the end, in which Coop found me in my red-not-red dress.
Everything between those two points remains a blank in my memory. An hour, more or less, entirely wiped clean.
"Dissociative amnesia" is the official diagnosis. More commonly known as repressed memory syndrome. Basically, what I witnessed was too horrific for my fragile mind to hold on to. So I mentally cut it out. A self-performed lobotomy.
That didn't stop people from begging me to remember what happened. Well-meaning family. Misguided friends. Psychiatrists with visions of published case studies dancing in their heads. Think, they all told me. Really think about what happened. As if that would make any difference. As if my being able to recall every blood-specked detail could somehow bring the rest of my friends back to life.
Still, I tried. Therapy. Hypnosis. Even a ridiculous sense-memory game in which a frizzy-haired specialist held scented paper strips to my blindfolded face, asking how each one made me feel. Nothing worked. In my mind, that hour is a blackboard completely erased. There's nothing left but dust.
I understand that urge for more information, that longing for details. But in this case, I'm fine without them. I know what happened at Pine Cottage. I don't need to remember exactly how it happened. Because here's the thing about details-they can also be a distraction. Add too many and it obscures the brutal truth about a situation. They become the gaudy necklace that hides the tracheotomy scar.
I make no attempts to disguise my scars. I just pretend they don't exist.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Outstanding!!!! Read this in one sitting. This book should come with a warning saying****** "beware this book will cause you to lose sleep, turning page after page" highly recommend!!!!
I absolutely loved this book.
Totally enjoyed this book. Worth every penny.
I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns. The characters were troubled, but likable. Overall a wonderful read.
Very good read! Keeps you guessing!
10 years ago, Quincy survived the slaughter of 5 of her friends, at a cabin in the woods. Before that, Samantha and Lisa did the same thing, years apart. The 3 survivors are called the "Final Girls". Now Lisa is dead. Sam has come out of hiding and has reached out to Quincy. Why is Sam suddenly taking an interest in Quincy, and who killed Lisa? Quincy seems like she has put the past behind her. However, there is a dark side to her that is just under the surface, waiting to be exposed. Sam brings this out in her, but why? Is she deliberately doing it to see what Quincy is made of? I enjoyed this book. I don't feel like it was exceptionally fast-paced. I kept reading this waiting for the "thriller". That didn't come until the end. That being said, I wasn't bored. I read this book AFTER "The Last Time I Lied" and to me that was a tad bit more heart pounding.
Great book. I was not expecting the end wow!!
This is a page turner- devoured this book in just a few days. Fun read with lots of twists and turns. Great thriller to read in this chilly fall weather. I read his second book first and had to buy this one immediately after finishing The Last Time I Lied. I can't wait to read what he comes out with next!
Two stories are told in Final Girls. The night of Pine Cottage, the massacre Quincy lived through, and the life Quincy lives now, ten years later. The chapters typically tend to alternate one after each other, with a few exceptions. I found myself really loving the Pine Cottage story but not being interested in Quincy’s current story. The story of Pine Cottage was full of mystery because Quincy had a block in her memory that didn’t allow her to remember what had happened that night. We had no idea what was going to happen and neither did Quincy. We were living that night with her as her memories returned. It was mysterious, thrilling, and kept me on the edge of my seat. Those chapters were definitely my favorite. The story of current day Quincy is also full of mystery, but full of one that just fell flat. The events were extremely formulaic in the first 150 pages. I felt like I was reading the same chapter over and over and over. The mystery was somehow both the main focus but it also … wasn’t. It was constructed incredibly strangely. I feel like we spent more time on her relationship with Sam, Jeff, Coop, and Jonah than we did on the actual mystery. There were a few moments that should have held suspense but I just rolled my eyes at. The climax of the book was surprising to me, but it wasn’t something I felt very strongly about either way. I really didn’t enjoy any of the characters, which may have played a very strong role in why I didn’t enjoy the current day story because it was very character driven. There was character development for a few characters smushed together at the end of the book and I’m not sure how the author intended me to feel but I felt very underwhelmed. Overall, Final Girls wasn’t for me. I believe I may have expected something closer to the Pine Cottage chapters or a story of a killer back on the loose, but this wasn’t that.
I very much enjoyed this book. This is the second book I have read by this author, and both were great.
Final Girls, written under the pseudonym Riley Sager, is another entry into the popular: “Unreliable female narrator has no memory after a tragic event, and tries to figure out what occurred while battling substance abuse, only to discover that her trust in others has been betrayed” premise that so many mysteries are employing these days. Sager adds to this familiar plot the titular concept of the “Final Girls,” a nickname given by the press to three survivors of horrific past mass murder sprees. Quincy Carpenter, one of those three former victims, does not remember most of the events from that terrifying night. Ten years later, she seems to be doing quite well- she has a popular baking website, a loving boyfriend and plenty of lawsuit money to live comfortably. She has remained friends with the policeman who came to her rescue, and he is the one who informs her that another one of the “Final Girls” has recently committed suicide. Quincy and Lisa had never met in person, but as fellow survivors they supported each other. The third member of the group, Samantha, went into hiding and had not been seen in a long while. When Sam unexpectedly shows up at Quinn’s apartment to meet her for the first time, she wants to discuss Lisa’s death and Quinn ends up taking her in. Sam has apparently been living a rough existence, homeless and still haunted by her own experience with a killer. Sam soon takes it upon herself to try to shake up Quinn’s peaceful existence by helping her remember what she had endured. Fueled by too much prescription medication and alcohol, Quinn starts receiving flashbacks that reveal some truths that she would have preferred to keep buried in the recesses of her mind. Through Quincy and Sam’s characters, Sager explores what it means to “survive,” and if repression can really be sustained as a protective measure over the long term. The author questions if a person can undergo such a traumatic experience and still go on to live a “normal” life. Final Girls is a fast-paced and exciting read, one that will appeal to fans of Gone Girl, Girl on a Train and The Woman in the Window.
I couldn't put this book down absolutely loved it!! Page turner from start to finish. Looking forward to seeing what other books this author has available.
I couldn’t put this book down. I particularly liked the way the author went between past and present giving the reader clues without giving it away.
3.5 Stars Anyone that regularly reads my reviews knows that I’m constantly trying to read outside my comfort genres. I love romances & YA fantasy, so that is what I read the majority of the time. What I don’t mention, is that I prefer to read books written by women. So when I picked up this book that was obviously out of my comfort zone, I assumed it was written by a woman. It’s not, and what’s funny about that is that I shouldn’t have assumed Riley was a female, as one of the best guys in my life has the same name…. What I didn’t know was that I’m not the only woman that prefers books written by other women, so the pen name of Riley Sager was chosen specifically to get around this bias. I have to say that as much as it annoyed me when I found out, that I’m also kind of glad because I really did end up enjoying this book more than I expected to. I never would have picked it up otherwise. Final Girls felt slow moving at the beginning of the book and I often cringed at the actions of Quincy as they got increasingly more erratic. What kept me going was the desperate need to find out what actually happened that night. I had many guesses, and never really settled on one. I also had a “I hope this happens” that didn’t pan out. What did happen, was that I got blindsided by the truth. I didn’t particularly like the reveal, but it was shocking and I always like that. I received an advance readers copy of this book that I have chosen to review.
I need to start off by saying how much I loved the author’s attention to detail, there was the perfect amount without going overboard. I thought the writing flowed so beautifully, and how each flashback was introduced. It just flowed so amazingly. Each character has completely different thought processes, which made for much better character development. Quincy was an admirable and strong character, I absolutely loved her. Sam tended to frustrate me with her almost fearless actions. The twists and turns are like non I’ve ever seen and really added to the overall story. I loved all the quotes that were empowering to survivors of any trauma, I even wrote a few down in my personal notebook. I loved that there were touches on the subject of untreated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This book is easily one of my favorites of 2017!
Final Girls was on my radar to read before it was even released which makes it so crazy that I waited until now to read this book! I read that premise and just KNEW that this was a book that I had to read. Let me tell you though that this book deserves all of the hype and praise that it has gotten! This was one whirlwind of a ride and a book that I won't be forgetting about any time soon! I'm not going to lie - I picked this book up with pretty high expectations after seeing so many other readers love this one. Happily enough this book was able to live up to those high expectations and so much more. I picked this book up and was basically hooked from page one. I found myself unable to set it down and really didn't want to. For me, this was one of those books where I just had to see what was going to happen next. And even when Quincy was making stupid choices, I didn't want to stop reading. One of the things that I loved most about this book was the horror vibe that it had going on. I'm not a huge horror movie fan but I've watched enough of those types of movies to recognize that same feel in this book. It really added this layer of suspense and tension to the story! I also really enjoyed the fact that as the reader I didn't know whether or not to trust Sam and her intentions. I'm pretty sure that isn't a spoiler as it is alluded to in the above summary. Books where you aren't sure who to trust are basically my reader catnip. I just cannot resist books like this! I found myself just so completely caught up within the pages of this book. I can't say it any better than that! And that ending was just absolutely not what I was expecting in the least! I am being very careful here as I don't want to overshare and spoil anything but wow, wow, wow! I loved the way that this book ended and I won't say any more than that. This book was easily a five star read for me and made my top reads list for 2017! It was such an intense reading experience! I will be reading anything/everything that this author writes after loving this book so much. What makes it even better is that he has a new book releasing in 2018 for me to look forward to! I read this one in a matter of a few days because I just couldn't stop reading and had to see how it would all end. It was a wild ride and one that I won't be forgetting about any time soon. I would highly, highly recommend this book! Such a great read! Bottom Line: One of the best thrillers that I read it 2017! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publishers and NetGalley.
I’m always on the lookout for a new thriller and this has been making the rounds. I won a copy and dove right in. I was pulled in by the beginning. Not so much by any action, as by the idea of this book. There’s three girls who’ve all lived through different homicidal massacres, each years apart. They are all lone survivors. All three are Final Girls. From here, it’s predictable but still interesting. The first Final Girl dies a suspicious death and the other two girls band together for safety in numbers. Seems like a good idea. Or maybe not. One girl can’t remember her experience and the other seems to know more about it than she does. Okay, that sets up the suspense. I’ve read a lot of thrillers. Seen a bunch of movies in the genre. So I kind of knew the formula. Even with some gruesome scenes and a twsit or two, I just wasn’t all that thrilled. Maybe it was my mood. Or perhaps I’ve been reading too many books in this genre. I did like this book. Just never found that extra oomph to make me love it. I’d still recommend it.
This book quickly grabbed my attention and it was very unpredictable, but I just didn't like where this book went. I fell like it had way more potential and honestly I just wasn't happy with the ending.
I couldn't wait to get to end and was surprised by it.
Page turner. Will be a movie for sure.
Engaging and entertaining.
Haven't read one this good in some time. Highly recommended!
Just the other day I came upon something that reminded me of the author, Todd Ritter. I loved his books and I noticed that he had not published anything lately. I knew that he was little known and as such his following was somewhat meh. However, I had met Todd Ritter and found him to be very personable and entertaining. I hoped the best for him. So when I discovered this, I sunk a little bit, hoping he was doing well. Then, this book came up on my TBR pile. While reading the blurbs, I noticed the phrase "previously published author". Curiosity peaked, I looked them up. Surprise, surprise, it's Todd Ritter! I am so happy he's publishing again and I'm pretty sure his little known status is no more! I read this book all in one sitting. A story of three girls who were the girls left by serial killers. Either left for dead, thought they were dead or they got away. A title that no one wants, Quincy is the latest to receive it. She was involved in a massacre that took place in a camp cabin in the middle of the woods years before. She is now leading a "normal" life as a cooking blogger and engaged to her fiance, Jeff. She finds therapeutic satisfaction in the officer that found her and saved her, Coop. When news that Lisa, another "Final Girl" who survived an attack on her college girls dorm commits suicide, Quincy is visited by the last "Final Girl", Samantha Boyd. Samantha was involved in the attacks by the "Sack Man" while working in a motel. Samantha has been a curious one for the reporters. Her picture has never been shown, no one knows anything about her whereabouts, she's gone with the wind. Her sudden appearance at Quincy's doorstep adds a new element to this whole story. One where the real intrigue begins. And, where the person searching for the "Final Girls" comes hunting. A story full of action, suspense and thrills, I found page-turning and mesmerizing. I read it all in one day because I could not put it down. Kudos to the author for a job well done and your new, well deserved status! Thanks to Penguin Group/Dutton and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. 1 like
Couldn't put it down