If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be ‘cinematic’. Everything about it relates to films – the plot, the structure, the chapter titles, the references… even the characters are movie buffs. Compared to the author’s other books that I’ve read, it wasn’t one of the best, however. The content is more like Final Girls than Lock Every Door or Home Before Dark, which is fine with me, but the writing style seemed a bit lazy and the plot was surprisingly thin.
The story is set in 1991 and mainly follows Charlie, a student who is grieving for her best friend Maddy, the victim of an unknown serial killer. Going against all common sense and despite the fearful atmosphere on campus, Charlie accepts a 6-hour lift home from a stranger, Josh, whom she doesn’t trust. The question is whether her instinct is right and how she can ‘survive the night’, to refer to the title. Matters are complicated by her mental health condition – she has hallucinations, ‘movies in the mind’, which are a result of the trauma of Maddy’s death. She doesn’t always know what’s real.
I found the story to be quite pacy, as it takes place over just a few hours. Charlie’s hallucinations are central to the plot but it’s unacceptable now to exploit mental health for the sake of thrills I think. Oddly, some of the issues I had with the book, such as the thriller clichés, were explained and even absolved by the twist ending, which was a clever device. I didn’t really enjoy the journey, though. I’m going to be cautious about reading Riley Sager’s next book; I hope it’s more sophisticated than this one.
Thank you to the publisher Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 23rd December.