This cover image released by Dutton shows “Survive the Night,” a novel by Riley Sager.


Associated Press

“Survive the Night,” by Riley Sager (Dutton)

Confused and depressed Charlie can’t bear to stay at Olyphant University anymore — not since her best friend was stabbed to death by a serial murderer known as the Campus Killer. So she drops out, packs up her stuff, kisses her college boyfriend goodbye, and puts a ride share request on the school bulletin board.

That leads her to Josh, a somewhat older guy who says he is going her way. Charlie is unsure if she can trust him, but her need to get away is so strong that she gets into his car for the long drive from New Jersey to Ohio.

For a thriller that starts off with two strikes against it, Riley Sager’s “Survive the Night” turns out to be a first-rate read. The strikes? First, Sager asks readers to believe that a young woman obsessed with her roommate’s murder would get into a car with a stranger. Second, a young woman stuck in a car with scary stranger is an overused trope of crime fiction. We’ve seen this movie before.

That may be so, Sager seems to be telling us, but you haven’t seen anybody do it like this.

The author (Riley Sager is a penname for New England author Todd Ritter) spins his yarn at a frantic pace. A sense of dread arrives the moment Charlie enters the car and never stops building. And the twists, few of which readers are likely to see coming, arrive in such abundance that they are head-spinning.


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