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Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night

by Riley Sager

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Quick take

Nirvana might be on the radio but this car doesn't smell like teen spirit, it smells like trouble...

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Scary


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update



It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, 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 shocking 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.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Survive the Night.
Survive the Night

Fade in.

Parking lot.

The middle of night.

The middle of nowhere.

Beginning at the end, like a great film noir. Bill Holden dead in the swimming pool. Fred MacMurray giving his last confession.

Going full circle. Like a noose.

There’s a car, a diner, a neon sign in the parking lot fading to streaks in the rearview mirror as the car speeds away. Inside are two people—a young woman in the passenger seat and a man behind the wheel. Both stare through the windshield to the road ahead, uncertain.

About who they are.

About where they’re going.

About how they got here, to this precise moment in time. Just before midnight. The final seconds of Tuesday, November 19, 1991.

But Charlie knows what brought them to the cusp of this uncertain new day. As the situation unfolds frame by frame, like film through a projector, she knows exactly how it all happened.

She knows because this isn’t a movie.

It’s the here and now.

She’s the girl in the car.

The man behind the wheel is a killer.

And Charlie understands, with the certainty of someone who’s seen this kind of movie a hundred times before, that only one of them will live to see the dawn.

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Why I love it

There’s something I like to call the “Please don’t do this” premise, common to both thrillers and horror films: A girl walks home alone at night. A kid wanders into the basement where too many things have gone bump in the dark. Riley Sager’s latest thriller, Survive the Night, starts with a humdinger of a “Please don’t do this” premise and then, right as you think you know the score, turns the story on its head to become something totally new and unexpected.

It’s 1991. Charlie’s been through a lot in the last few months, including the murder of her best friend by the infamous (and at-large) Campus Killer. Wracked with grief, Charlie desperately wants to get away from campus—so much so, she accepts a ride from a tall, dark, handsome stranger. Exactly the wrong thing to do with a serial killer on the loose. There’s six hours from campus to Charlie’s home, and not everyone is going to make it out of this ride alive…

But the “Please don’t do this” premise isn’t the only thing cinematic about Survive the Night: Charlie is a film buff, who makes sense of her precarious situation partially by drawing on lessons learned from films like Silence of the Lambs and Gaslight. Sager’s storytelling, too, is absorbingly cinematic, sucking you right into the car with Charlie and holding you by the throat as the hours between campus and Akron tick down. Sager’s twisty plot kept me riveted well into the early hours of the morning, trying to figure out where we were headed—I never guessed. Pick this one up. You won’t be sorry.

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Member ratings (19,090)

  • Amanda S.

    Cedar Grove, WI

    Amazing! Another great read from Sager. If you love a good twist, and Sager’s other novels, you’ll be captivated in this thriller. Chilling, “No Exit” vibes, and start to finish great book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Jessica W.

    Weston, WI

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - This book is for those of us who adore the 90’s. Get your Doc Martens and flannel ready and jam out to some Nirvana. Arguably, my favorite or a close second to Sager’s ‘Lock Every Door.’

  • Maureen P.

    Midvale, UT

    This was such an easy read and just when I thought I had figured it out I was hit by twist after twist after twist! Definitely is a suspenseful psychological thriller and has “No Exit” vibes⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Jessica K.

    West Des Moines, IA

    I love Riley Sager but the plot of this didn’t sound interesting to me so I didn’t have high hopes. Of course I was wrong another great read of Riley’s, can’t go wrong with these books ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Morgan W.

    Matthews, NC

    WOW- Sager does it again! This book is full of twists and turns. Just when you think you know who the serial killer is, you’ll have to guess again! Definitely a finish in one sitting book! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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