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Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Thriller

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...

Synopsis

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.

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.

Thriller
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
House of Glass
Middle of the Night
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Bad Tourists
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless
Thriller
View all
First Lie Wins
No One Can Know
House of Glass
Middle of the Night
Listen for the Lie
A Talent for Murder
One Perfect Couple
Darling Girls
Kill for Me, Kill for You
Bad Tourists
Murder Road
Daughter of Mine
The Fury
Only if You’re Lucky
The Other Mothers
When I’m Dead
The Soulmate
What Lies in the Woods
She Started It
The Only One Left
Dark Corners
Blacktop Wasteland
All the Dangerous Things
The Only Survivors
The Broken Girls
The Family Game
The Push
We Were Never Here
Things We Do in the Dark
The Golden Couple
The Collective
The Stranger Upstairs
Gone Tonight
Too Good to Be True
The Last Word
You Are Not Alone
Rock Paper Scissors
Not a Happy Family
A Flicker in the Dark
The Last Flight
Reckless Girls
The House Across the Lake
The Wife Upstairs
The Last Thing He Told Me
The Maidens
Everything We Didn't Say
Invisible Girl
The Paris Apartment
You're Invited
The Last Party
Dark Places
Pieces of Her
The Wife Between Us
Sharp Objects
None of This Is True
The Silent Patient
The Winter Sister
The Other Woman
Necessary People
The Family Upstairs
The Night Swim
Girl A
The Hunting Wives
Just Another Missing Person
First Born
The Lies I Tell
Breathless