It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.
Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?
What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.
I’m a fan of Riley Sager’s books – I read all of them – so I was thrilled to receive an ecopy to read from the publisher via Netgalley. Although I do admit having a few favorites, Sager’s novels never let me down and Survive The Night is yet another corker!
After Charlie’s best friend Maddy is killed by The Campus Killer, Charlie is filled with grief and she feels incredibly guilty for leaving her friend behind on their night out. Charlie is desperate to get away from school and find solace at her grandmother’s house and that’s why she puts up an ad at the university notice board and finds a ride with the unknown Josh.
You have to suspend some disbelief if you want to get the most out of this novel. First off, Charlie is well aware that anyone can have bad intentions and she’s anxious about it, yet she gets into a car with a total stranger without a problem. She doesn’t even make her boyfriend wait with her to see this stranger and check out the scene. Hmm, that’s a bit crazy, right? It’s probably the first but definitely not the last stupid choice she makes that night. It was fun though to see how she gets herself into so much trouble and to worry about her safety. It’s impossible not to root for Charlie in this novel.
The one thing I didn’t really like was that Charlie is turned into an unreliable narrator because she sometimes ‘checks out’ and sees ‘movies in her head’. The result is that you have no choice but to question what is real and what isn’t? It’s a little like an alcoholic character having blackouts, I’m not a fan of this either so I was afraid it wouldn’t work for me after a while and I wouldn’t stay on team Charlie but I’m happy that the author managed to keep me onboard. I was fortunate that the story wasn’t entirely hung up on this technique and we don’t get stuck on it.
The story is fast-paced and even though I now know what’s coming I’d probably still be hiding behind a pillow if Survive The Night is adapted on the big screen. The night was dark, the tension high and unsettling. Is Charlie really getting a ride from the Campus Killer? What are his intentions, why get her in the car when he could have killed her already on campus? How is she going to escape? It is only the start of a very wild ride! My mind went in circles of yes, no, maybe, and I don’t know anymore. I wanted the author to put me out of my misery and when the truth came out my heart certainly did a little flippety flop! The twists in this novel were numerous and I did not see ANY of them coming! Hence why I loved this novel so much :-).
I received a free ecopy from the publisher Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.