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Riley Sager

LOCK EVERY DOOR . . . Between the covers

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LED coverIt could be said that fate has not treated Jules Larsen with kindness. Her family disintegrated. Sister Jane mysteriously went missing one night, last seen getting into a black VW Beetle, but never to be seen again. Her mother, literally crippled with cancer and her father, metaphorically so but by unpayable medical bills, perished in a disastrous fire. Jules paid her way through college and graduated with a qualification that secured her a non-job as a gopher and photocopying skivvy in an anonymous New York office. When they decided to ‘rationalise their human resources’ her job was one of the first to go. Ah well, at least Jules had her relationship with sweet, goofy, sexy Andrew, and their shared apartment. Until she came home one time and found lovely Andrew between the legs of some random girl. Andrew is the keyholder, and so adding homelessness to emotional injury, it’s Jules who has to go.

Jules ends up sleeping on the couch of her best college friend, Chloe. Down, definitely, and almost out. Until her daily scan of the situations vacant notices gives her a faint sniff of hope. Someone wants an apartment sitter. It’s not just any old apartment, though. The apartment is in one of New York’s most celebrated buildings – The Bartholomew. Neither as celebrated nor as notorious as The Dakota, The Bartholomew shares spectacular views over Central Park, is built with the same attention to German Gothic details, and is regarded with awe by passers-by as they gaze up at its pediments and gargoyles.

Not only does Jules get to stay in a luxury apartment, but she will be paid what is, to her, a ridiculously high salary. She feels totally intimidated by the interview with The Bartholomew’s expensively dressed agent, but she must have done something right, because she gets the gig.

There are one or two rules, however. She must never spend a night away from the building. On no account is she allowed visitors, day or night. And under no circumstances must she ever approach or bother any other the bona fide residents of the building, all of whom are madly wealthy, and some of whom are internationally well known.

Too good to be true? Of course it is! It’s not long before the century-old history the building begins to assert itself into Jules’s consciousness. What happened to the previous sitters in apartment 12A? Why did the building’s founder and leading light throw himself to his death from an upper storey while several of his staff were laid out in death, on stretchers lined up on the sidewalk below? Can anyone in the building be trusted? Charlie, the benevolent doorman? Nick, the solicitous and warm-hearted doctor from across the hallway? Greta Manville, the reclusive writer, author of a book which entranced Jules, and thousands of others in their teenage years?

pseudonymThis is a very clever thriller. Riley Sager (right), as he did in his previous novel Last Time I Lied, flips time sequences to keep us guessing as to precisely what is going on. His solution to the conspiracy which binds all The Bartholomew residents together is totally unexpected, and just about plausible. If you are a fan of claustrophobic Gothick thrillers where even the wallpaper in the bedroom has a sinister intent, and the dumb waiter creaks into view carrying a deadly threat, then you will love this. Lock Every Door is published by Ebury Press and will be available from 25th July.

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LAST TIME I LIED . . . Between the covers

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Riley SagerI was working in Australia when Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic At Hanging Rock premiered. I remember pub and dinner party talk for months after being dominated by interpretations and explanations about what might have happened to the ‘lost girls’. In the endpapers of Last Time I Lied American author Riley Sager, (left) acknowledges his debt to this film (and the short story on which it was based). Instead of a 1900 Melbourne, Sager beams us into up-country New York State in, more or less, our times.

When Emma Davis, a skinny and gawky thirteen year-old just on the verge of young womanhood, wins a place at a prestigious summer camp for privileged teenagers, she falls under the spell of three older girls with whom she shares a cabin. In particular, the assured and sexually aware Vivian captivates Emma, just as she has captivated the other two, Natalie and Allison.

Camp Nightingale was created by a timber baron in the early years of the twentieth century. His master design featured a lake and, as there wasn’t one to hand, he simply evicted the inhabitants of a nearby valley, dammed the river and created his own huge water feature, Lake Midnight. Now the property is in the hands of his descendant, Francesca Harris-White, who presides in benign dictatorship over the gathering of rich city girls every summer.

LTILEmma’s summer idyll is destined to come to an abrupt and tragic end, however, when the three older girls in the cabin disappear one night, never to return. Despite the massive search and rescue operation, Vivian, Natalie and Allison remain missing, and Franny is forced to close the camp in disarray.

Now, fifteen years on, Emma Davis is a successful artist who is on the verge of giving up her day job in an advertising agency to paint full time. Her huge canvases create a stir in the New York art world, but they contain a hidden image known only to the artist. Each painting begins as a depiction of the three missing Camp Nightingale girls, who are progressively painted over by ever more intense foliage until only tantalising glimpses of them remain.

Emma is shocked when she receives an invitation to have lunch with Franny, and her shock turns to panic when she learns that the heiress plans to reopen Camp Nightingale and wants Emma to return for the season as artist in residence. Can she bear to relive the tragic events of that fateful summer? What is Franny’s real motive for reopening the camp? And, most importantly for us as readers, is Emma providing us with a classically misleading unreliable narrative?

Emma does return to Camp Nightingale and, naturally enough, since this is a thriller all about fate and coincidence, she has to sleep in the cabin called Dogwood – the selfsame one which she shared with Vivian, Natalie and Allison. Her new companions are Miranda, Krystal and Sasha. But now, of course, they are the giggly fifteen year-olds, and she is the mature and experienced woman.

Riley Sager packs the story with the literary equivalent of Improvised Explosive Devices, destined to go off at any moment with devastating consequences. We have Theo, Franny’s adoptive son, the subject of Emma’s massive and breathless crush all those years ago. There is Ben, the moody ‘bit of rough’ who has always been the camp maintenance man. Added to the mix are Lottie and Becca, both ‘survivors’ of the first downfall of Camp Nightingale. Above all – or, better, beneath all – is the moody presence of Lake Midnight itself, beneath which lie the stone memories of the displaced villages from over a century ago. Incidentally, if anyone can think of something more dramatically Gothick than Sager’s drowned lunatic asylum, whose roof appears only when the lake suffers from drought, I will give them a prize!

Bitte bei Verwendung Hinweis an: bilder@joexx.de

Last Time I Lied cleverly alternates between Emma’s recollections and the present time. Events in the reopened Camp Nightingale come to resemble nothing more nor less than a disturbing re-enactment of a cold-case crime, where the spectral presence of the fifteen-years-lost girls looms larger and larger with every page.

The eventual solution to what happened to the three girls is dazzling, ingenious, gasp-provoking – and fairly improbable – but, hey, this is a cleverly constructed and blissfully entertaining novel and no lesser person than Aristotle, in his Poetics, declared

“for it is probable that many things may take place contrary to probability.”

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a New Jersey author who has published several mysteries under his own name, Todd Ritter. Last Time I Lied is published by Ebury Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and will be out on 12th July.

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WELCOME TO CAMP NIGHTINGALE . . . but the birds aren’t singing

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SUMMER CAMP – that particularly American institution which, for those of us in our dotage, evokes memories of Allan Sherman’s letter home from Camp Granada.

 

Camp Nightingale017RILEY SAGER (aka Todd Ritter) however takes a darker view. When Emma goes to Camp Nightingale, it is her first summer away from home. She learns how to play games, but she also learns a more sinister skill – how to lie. That golden summer dream becomes a twisted and feverish nightmare when three of Emma’s new-found friends set off to explore the woods, but are never seen again. It is inevitable that he subsequent furore spells the end for Camp Nightingale as a safe holiday destination for teenage girls. But times change. memories fade. Years after the terrible events of that summer, Emma is asked to return to the newly reopened camp. Will her return lay old ghosts to rest, or wake the spirits of the dead and rip away the veil of innocence to reveal a much darker truth?

LAST TIME I LIED  is published by Ebury Press/Penguin Random House, and will be available later this year. To find out more about Riley Sager, you can follow these links.

https://www.rileysagerbooks.com/

@riley_sager

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