Final Girls - Riley Sager

3.5 stars


If you met Quincy Carpenter, you’d think she had the world by the tail. She’s a pretty young woman with a successful baking blog who lives in a swanky NY apartment with Jeff, lawyer & boyfriend extraordinaire. And she’d be thrilled you bought it because that’s exactly the facade she’s been trying to maintain for 10 years.


A decade ago she became the “lucky” one. Quincy & her pals rented a cottage for a weekend away from the stress of college life. It should have been a hoot. Instead she ended up the lone survivor of a bloody massacre. All Quincy remembers is running for her life & the police officer who saved her.


That’s when she joined a very small, select group of women…..the only ones to walk away from the scene of multiple murders. Borrowing a term from horror films, the media refers to each of them as a “final girl”.


It’s the only thing Quincy Carpenter, Lisa Milner & Samantha Boyd have in common. None of them wanted to join the club & each handled their notoriety in different ways. Lisa wrote a book & went on to help others. Sam went off the grid & disappeared. And Quincy became a borderline agoraphobe who embraces her selective amnesia.


But the one thing that gets her to leave her apartment (with a helping of Xanax) is a visit from Coop. He’s the cop who stumbled across the scene 10 years ago & saved her. Their connection was instant & ever since, he travels to Manhattan to check on her several times a year.


As the book opens, Coop has called to meet at their usual place & this time he’s got some news. Lisa was found dead with her wrists slashed. Quincy is shocked. She always thought of Lisa as the stable one. Was she also wearing a game face? After she gets home, Quincy becomes more distressed when she finds a message Lisa left her on the night she died.


Then things get really weird. Long lost Samantha Boyd shows up on Quincy’s doorstep. She’s a blunt, tough woman who’s lived a hard life. Quincy is equally fascinated & repelled by her while Jeff is less than thrilled, especially when she offers Sam a place to stay. This is where the book really begins. From here on we watch as Sam takes Quincy for a walk on the wild side & challenges her to remember the night she became a final girl.


If you’re going to hitch a ride with these two, you will have to suspend your disbelief a bit. Quincy’s characters isn’t consistent & I wondered if the author intended this as a way to show how she evolved but it seemed to happen really quickly. I don’t want to risk spilling any beans but some of her decisions were hard to believe, especially given the way she lived her life before Sam appeared. She is also remarkably accepting of explanations of certain events which should have raised red flags. This is someone who was unable to walk down the street without suspecting each pedestrian & jumping at every sound.


The first half moves at a slower pace as the cast is introduced & events are rehashed several times for the benefit of other characters. But as it heads for the finish, better brush up on your ability to bob & weave or you’ll be knocked over by a herd of twists & reveals.


So maybe think of this as your summer psychological drama/slasher read, perfect for the beach. The last third is a full on sprint to the finish that will keep you entertained as the pages fly by.