Tag Archives: Suspense Fiction

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

It’s 1991 and Charlie Jordan is having the worst year of her life. Her best friend and college roommate Maddie was murdered by a suspected serial killer and Charlie has retreated into a fantasy world to deal with her grief and guilt. Charlie was with Maddie the night she died, but after a fight Charlie left her friend and went home. Maddie’s body was found a few days later.

Despite the care and attention of a loyal boyfriend, Charlie feels she has to get away from campus to start to heal, so she calls a number on the local ride share board and snags a ride back to Ohio with a man named Josh. Charlie assumes Josh is a fellow student, but as they begin their journey Charlie starts to feel like Josh’s stories don’t add up. Soon Charlie begins to suspect that Josh is the serial killer responsible for the murder of her best friend and she has to figure out a way to survive this night and save herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night and found the premise to be unique. This is a book that could only have taken place in the early nineties, because with the advent of cell phones and GPS a lot of Charlie’s struggles could have been avoided. But Sager knows this and tries to make the most out of setting this thriller in the not-so-distant past. Music and cultural events of the era weave throughout the book, with grunge band Nirvana playing a role in the plot development.

This book has a fast moving story and plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged. Charlie’s way of dealing with her grief and pain has been to place herself inside a classic film instead of facing the events in front of her. This makes Charlie an unreliable narrator. You’re sometimes not sure if what is happening is really happening, or if it is what’s happening in the movie in Charlie’s head. I didn’t love the side plot about Charlie’s mental disassociations to deal with her pain and grief, but it works to move the story along.

This book is perfect for fans of true crime stories, podcasts like My Favorite Murder, or those who like recent titles like The Guest List, The Girl on the Train, or the works of Ruth Ware.

– Review by Jenny, Middletown Branch

Freefall by Jessica Barry

What happened? He’s dead. His face is gone. The plane looks like a crushed tin can.  A short business trip turned into a coffin for him and stranded her in a rocky mountain wilderness. With an injured leg, bruises, and sprains, Allison Carpenter had to gather what she could to survive.

Somnublaze, an antidepressant developed by the Prexaline Company, had been facing some scrutiny for its questionable results. Ben, Allison’s fiancé, had been a chief executive of the company. Now he was dead, the plane wrecked, and Allison thought to be dead as well.  Was the plane crash an accident or had someone wanted both Ben and Allison out of the way permanently? As Allison made her way down to a distant water hole, Ben’s words of warning came back to her, “if he thinks you’re on to him he will come after you. Be prepared to run.”

Maggie had been making bread when she got the news that the plane Allison was on had crashed in the Colorado mountains, her daughter presumed dead. Allison and Maggie hadn’t spoken in more than two years, but she wouldn’t accept that her daughter was dead. Distrusting others to find her daughter, Maggie decided that she was going to undertake a search.

Learning more about the company her daughter and Ben worked for, Maggie questions whether the plane crash was indeed an accident or meant to silence the two of them.  She reaches out to possible contacts that might have some insight into what had happened, even making a stop at Prexaline to learn more.  She won’t believe her daughter is dead. Maggie has let their estrangement go too long so she needed to find Allison and bring her home again.

The story plays out in alternating voices, Allison and Maggie, as author Jessica Barry takes us back through the past to the present.  Allison isn’t a clean wholesome character, but she has a strength she’ll need to survive and reunite with her mother.  Maggie hasn’t always made good choices either. 

The story begins with action, is filled with suspense, rocky adventures, and enough mystery to keep you looking over your shoulder until the end. As this is Barry’s debut thriller novel, she sets the tone for what I hope to be more book releases in the future.

Rumor has it Freefall may be headed for the big screen.

Micah Followay – St. Matthews

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox is agoraphobic, unable to leave her home.  She hides away and has her groceries (and plenty of wine) delivered.  She spends her time watching old suspense movies and spying on her neighbors.

When a new family moves in across the way from her Anna immediately starts watching them through her camera lens.  By all looks of it they appear to be the perfect family; a father, a mother and their teenage son.  But when Anna looks out her window one night she sees something she shouldn’t, something horrible.  When Anna attempts to contact the police about what she saw, her world begins to unravel. 

As the reader you begin to question Anna’s memory, her ability to discern fantasy from reality and you begin to realize something is off in Anna’s family as well. I love a good unreliable narrator and The Woman in the Window is a superb twisty thriller.  Finn sets the story against the background of film noir seamlessly.  The level of Hitchcockian suspense is so perfectly delicious and chilling that every time I had to put the book down I just couldn’t wait to get back to it!

Formats Available: Regular Type, Large Type, Audiobook, eBook

Review by Heather, St. Matthews