RILEY SAGER: LOCK EVERY DOOR (2019) and HOME BEFORE DARK (June, 2020)
If you like well plotted thrillers that cross the line between domestic suspense and something a bit darker, then Riley Sager is the author for you.
I was a little slow in catching up with Riley Sager, but after greatly enjoying his second book, The Last Time I Lied (2018), I went back and read his very dark Final Girls (2017) and have just finished his most recent novel, Lock Every Door, which came out in the middle of 2019. Sager also has a terrific looking thriller, Home Before Dark, due out in June this year.
Sager used to write small town police detective thrillers under his own name of Todd Ritter, but moved into the domestic suspense arena with the Riley Sager pseudonym and his very successful first novel, Final Girls. All of the Sager novels feature engaging first person narrators, who are far from perfect and usually suffering from violent traumatic instances in their past. Although he is a male, Sager seems to perfectly capture the tone and style of his younger female narrators and makes them into credible, well-fleshed out characters.
The central character in Lock Every Door is the very ‘down-on-her-luck’ Jules Larsen, a young woman with less than $500 bucks in her checking account, a broken engagement and no job. When she’s offered a chance to “apartment sit” in a famous upmarket Manhattan building called The Bartholomew, she jumps at the chance, despite suspecting that it all seems a little too good to be true. Then there is also the strange rules: no visitors; no nights spent away from the apartment and no disturbing the other residents. It is all a bit odd, but Jules is desperate for the $1000 cash payment she will get at the end of the first week.
When one of the other ‘apartment sitters’ she meets goes missing, Jules becomes concerned and begins to look into the many stories that surround the Bartholomew. She soon uncover the secrets of its dark and haunted past, but it seems that there are those around her that would prefer those secrets stay buried.
This is a very well plotted novel. Sager gradually doles out its secrets and red herrings and for a long time it is unclear which way the story is heading with suggestions of satanic rituals, ghosts and murders. Even the dedication to Ira Levin, leaves you wondering whether we are getting Rosemary’s Baby or Sliver, or something in between. But pure crime readers should not worry too much.
Sager has really developed over the course of his three books and he uses the count-down structure of Lock Every Door to great effect, generating considerable suspense in the process. Jules is a very engaging character and it is easy to become caught up in her situation and feel her fear and desperation. Although not a lot happens in the opening sections, the book still flows very smoothly and quickly, and the final fifty pages or so, are very suspenseful.
I really enjoyed Lock Every Door. My only criticisms would be that some of the elements of the conclusion strain credibility and that it lacked the killer final twists that were a feature of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied. Nevertheless, it is a very captivating read.
Four Stars Out of Five!
I was very pleased to learn that Sager has a new book, Home Before Dark, coming out in June this year, which contains the twin elements of dark past secrets and present day danger, which he has done so well in the past.
The advance publicity material provided by the publishers suggest that Home Before Dark will once more dance along that line between domestic suspense and Gothic horror:
“A woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.”
It sounds very interesting and I am very much looking forward to it!
Here is a link to an earlier review I did of Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied: