Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Survive the Night by Riley Sager @riley_sager #thriller #suspense

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

You know when you read a book that blows you away, and you can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, rehashing all the twisty bits in your mind? You loved it so much, you have to refrain from going back and reading it again? Well, I thoroughly plan to read Survive the Night again, just not right away. I’m still digesting the first go-round.

If you’re not familiar with Riley Sager, I recommend correcting the oversight pronto. He’s another of my auto-buy authors. I’ve read all of his releases with the exception of one, currently waiting on my Kindle. I’ll stop with the fan girl stuff now, and get to the book and my review so you can see why I’m over-the-top jazzed about this one. 🙂


One of New York Times Book Review‘s “summer reads guaranteed to make your heart thump and your skin crawl”; An Amazon Best of the Month Pick; Named a must-read summer book by The Washington PostVultureBuzzFeedForbesEntertainment Weekly, CNN, New York PostGood HousekeepingE!PopSugarCrimeReadsThrillist, and BookRiot

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.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you Penguin Group, Dutton Books, and NetGalley for my ARC.

Wow. Just wow! I devour books by Riley Sager, so it was a no-brainer to request Survive the Night from NetGalley. I never know what to expect when I’m reading a Sager book. Each is so different, yet all are gripping and engrossing. Strangely, I had reservations about Survive the Night. I’m not a big fan of serial killer fiction, but, hey—it was Sager, one of my auto-buy authors—so I was more than willing to take a chance. I should have known he’d knock it into the stratosphere.

Charlie needs a ride from college to her hometown. She’s desperate to put the past behind her after her best friend becomes the third victim of a serial murderer known as the Campus Killer. She meets Josh, also headed to her home state of Ohio, and agrees to ride with him, sharing expenses along the way. But during the long, dark night over deserted back roads, Charlie begins to suspect Josh isn’t who he claims to be. Too much of what he says doesn’t add up, each successive hiccup making her think she may be sharing the car with the Campus Killer, a man who has reason to want her dead. She caught a glimpse of him in the shadows before he killed her friend.

Although this is a book about a serial killer, there is nothing gory or graphic about it. The operational word here is TENSION—with a freaking capital T!!

The story plays out over the course of several nail-biting hours during which the author had me second-guessing myself multiple times. I waffled between frustration, fear, and irritation over Charlie’s actions. Sometimes I was cheering for her, other times I wanted to shake sense into her. It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.

I also loved the use of old movies in the story (Charlie is a film student) and Charlie’s penchant of separating from reality for brief spans for “movies in her mind.” I did spot one of the “reveals” before the last act, but by then, I believe it was expected. And it was so deliciously perfect, those pieces dropping into place were wholly satisfying.

Survive the Night reinforces why I devour books by Sager. He’s a master of suspense who crosses T’s and dots I’s with such subtlety the reader doesn’t even realize how skillfully he orchestrats threads in the background—until they explode in your face.

Definitely among my favorite reads of the year. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse suspense and well-plotted fiction, don’t miss this slick, edge-of-your seat thrill ride!


78 thoughts on “Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Survive the Night by Riley Sager @riley_sager #thriller #suspense

  1. I requested this book on Net Galley, but doubt I’ll be approved since it’s so close to the publication date. Great review. I have to balk at the price tag, but I will watch for sales. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds really, really good, Mae. I’m adding it to my list, but I think my life has all the tension right now my old heart & brain can handle, so I’m going to wait until I hit a smoother patch to read this one. Normally I don’t read real life books that are too grim (and too close to the headlines) for me, but your review lets me know this one isn’t gory, so I’m sure when the time is right, I’m going to enjoy it. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s definitely tense, Marcia, and pulse-pounding, so save it for a lazy day. No gore and nothing that set off my squeamish radar. I don’t usually read books focused on a serial killer, but this one is mostly cat-and-mouse with plenty of surprising twists. Glad you enjoyed the review!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tension with a capital T is right. I can’t imagine being stuck in a car that long with someone I thought might be a serial killer. Being a big movie fan, I’d love the references. Glad this one didn’t disappoint!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wanted to add that for anyone who is freaky about serial killer fiction, Maura Beth. I don’t like reading how victims are killed or bodies mutilated , so I’m glad you found that part helpful. Definitely a suspenseful and tense read. Another one of those I hated to put down!


  4. This one was already on my radar. I’ll be attending a virtual event in a few weeks with Sager and Taylor Adams. I wish I could have fit the ARC into my schedule, but I will pick it up soon. It sounds absolutely wonderful! Great review ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome about the virtual event, Tessa. How exciting!
      Also, be forewarned that Amazon has this tagged as “horror” but I have no idea why…unless it has to do with the psychological angle.
      I think you would enjoy this one. Slick and suspenseful from start to finish!

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is a tense, nail-biter for sure, Judi. I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next, LOL!
      Glad you enjoyed the review and I hope things calm down for you. 🙂


  5. Hi Mae, this sounds like a great read. I can’t think of a worse situation to be in than trapped in a car in the middle of nowhere during the night with a serial killer. Nice to see suspense and tension highlighted here after I recently read Craig’s post about these tools over at SE.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.” I love being played (by a book). Great review, Mae, and the cover alone gave me the chills. Sounds like a fabulous read!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager #ghostficton #ghostsuspense @riley_Sager | From the Pen of Mae Clair

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