MysteryPeople Review: FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sagar

We can’t stop raving about Final Girls here at the store! Below, you’ll find an review of Sagar’s new novel, from our new MysteryPeople contributor Matthew Turbeville, who may have read more mysteries than we have. (If that’s possible…)

  • Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Matthew Turbeville

 

final-girls-bookRiley Sager’s Final Girls was a hit before it was even released, and deservedly so.  With critical praise from authors like Stephen King, the book was destined for success: “The first great thriller of 2017 is here: Final Girls, by Riley Sager. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like this.” There’s no falsehood to this statement—including the remark about Gone Girl.  Final Girls shares remarkable similarities to Gone Girl, as well as many other crime blockbusters of recent years.  Yet the most enticing part of Final Girls may be its initial concept: the story of the girl who got away.

The book revolves around Quincy, a young woman whose life seems perfect.  She has a baking blog, a perfect boyfriend, and a quiet life—until several events conspire to bring her past to life: Quincy, a woman with her vices (an addiction to Xanax and soda), is troubled for a reason.  She was the sole survivor of a mass murder nearly ten years prior, and is still coping with the aftermath.

“With rapid twists and turns, incredibly complex characters who will stop at nothing to get—and protect—what they want, Sager’s debut is a nonstop, propulsive and compelling thriller that will sink its hooks into you and drag you along until the very last page.”

Sager, a huge fan of slasher films, takes the idea of the final girl—the girl who is pure enough to survive a slasher film—and applies it to the crime genre.  How can one be pure enough, in a realistic world, to survive a killing spree? Maybe the girl in question isn’t actually pure enough, and that’s where the twist in Final Girls lies. How far will one go to survive—at whatever cost—and also what drives someone to kill—whether murdering a stranger in cold blood, or killing the people closest to you?

Final Girls is perhaps one of the most interesting thrillers to come out of this new era of crime fiction: it is a book that explores womanhood, and what it means to have the pressures of perfection weighing down on a “final girl,” and whether the final girl actually exists.  With rapid twists and turns, incredibly complex characters who will stop at nothing to get—and protect—what they want, Sager’s debut is a nonstop, propulsive and compelling thriller that will sink its hooks into you and drag you along until the very last page.  And as any survivor knows—of crime fiction or in a slasher film—the last page is only the beginning.  

Fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Lisa Unger will delight in Final Girls. With similarities to Jeff Abbott’s blockbuster novel Blame (loss of memory, the idea of choosing whether or not to remember traumatic events), the demented and scorned characters of Gone Girl, and the incredible darkness of a Stephen King novel, there’s surely something for everyone to enjoy.

You can find copies of The Final Girls on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Introducing Our Latest Blogger, Matthew Turbeville!

MysteryPeople is proud to introduce our latest contributor to the site, Matthew Turbeville. He’ll be contributing reviews and interviews to the blog, in between working on his numerous writing projects. Stay tuned for his upcoming review of Riley Sagar’s The Final Girls. 

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Matthew Turbeville

My name is Matthew Turbeville, and I hail from Lake City, S.C.  I have always been interested in the crime genre, perhaps because the most prolific serial killer in the history of the country lived just a few miles away from me, or perhaps because I simply love a good mystery.  I have graduated with a degree in English Literature from Clemson University in 2014, and have gone on to study writing at universities like Boston University and Florida State University.  In addition to soon completing my library and information masters program, I have been published in a few magazines and have run blogs of my own.

Through my studies, I have come across and in contact with several great crime writers—I tend to read works by women like Megan Abbott (who introduced me to the genre years ago), Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, Lisa Lutz, Lori Roy, Tana French, Amy Gentry, and Christa Faust, among many other powerful women writers who are striving to reinvigorate and drastically revolutionize the genre.  I also love the writings of Daniel Woodrell, Lou Berney, Don Winslow, Jeff Abbott, and William Kent Kreuger, among others.  Ask me any time for a suggestion and I’m ready to provide a list of titles you might enjoy.  My all-time favorite mysteries include Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, and anything by Lisa Lutz.  Anything.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Traci Lambrecht of PJ Tracy

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

Nothing Stays Buried, written by the mother-daughter duo P.J. Tracy, puts the Monkeewrench gang of crime-solving programmers in rural Minnesota for a missing persons case that leads to more than a few bodies. It is also the last one co-written by P.J. Lambrecht, who passed away right before Christmas of last year. Her daughter Tracy, who will be joining Mark Pryor and James Ziskin, for our Scene Of The Crime discussion at BookPeople on August 26th at 6PM, talked to us about the book and how it was tied to her mother. 

MysteryPeople Scott: Nothing Stays Buried is an odd book in the sense it has at least three kinds of stories that the plot snaps together by the third act. What was the seed of the idea for the latest in the series?

Traci Lambrecht: Initially, it started out with a news story about a lion that had escaped a wild cat rescue and rehabilitation center near PJ’s farm, but ultimately the book became cheap therapy. We sketched it out several years ago during a time of some deep personal losses for both PJ and I, one of which was her diagnosis with severe heart failure, so we explored the theme of loss in different ways against the requisite backdrop of murder. We wanted to incorporate some hope and a little magic into the book as well, which is how the multiple storylines came about. Things were just a little too raw for us emotionally at the time, so we shelved it and wrote Shoot to Thrill instead. When we revisited the partial manuscript a couple years ago, we found the passage of time had given us the objectivity we needed to finish it.

MPS: This is one of the books where the Monkeewrench gang goes to the country. What does the more rural setting allow you to do as a writer?

TC: There is a whole world outside any urban environment and more than anything, exploring it provides grounding in an entirely different life perspective. We’ve always found that writing about rural settings and people is a way to reconnect with basic values and work ethic. Lots of revelations can come from the simplicity of lives that still have deep connections to the land.

MPS: Did Grace being pregnant effect writing for her in any way?

TC: It really did. Grace is such a tough cookie, so it was both fun and challenging to envision a gentler side while trying to stay true to her core character. And the pregnancy was unexpected – for both the characters and for us! But it seemed right – we wanted some positive forward movement in Grace’s and Magozzi’s relationship and this opened up so many possibilities. I jokingly blamed PJ for this impulsive decision, and she jokingly blamed me, but we were very happy with the opportunity to expand the development of those characters.

MPS: In writing for an ensemble do you and your mother have any technique to make sure each character pops?

TC: We just focus on fully immersing ourselves in the lives and minds of each character, which makes it easier to speak with their voices. And in a long-running series, that becomes more effortless with each book as the players become frighteningly real to you. It’s kind of like flirting with multiple personality disorder.

MPS: Due to the passing of your mother last year, fans have been wondering what the fate of the series is. What can you tell them?

TC: Monkeewrench is alive and well – the ninth Monkeewrench novel is completed and in edits, and I’m working on the tenth one now, along with a stand-alone novel. I’m also considering a spin-off of the Monkeewrench series featuring Iris Rikker, the rural sheriff from Snow Blind who endeared herself to a lot of fans. PJ is still a part of every word I write, a constant presence and inspiration, because PJ Tracy was an entity and voice we created together, not the sum of separate parts. We had our own language and we were both fluent in it.

MPS: There is a Christmas book coming out that both of you did. What can you tell us about it?

TC: Return of the Magi is a quirky, uplifting story of redemption about two elderly, mentally ill sisters who fervently believe they are two of the three wise men. With the reluctant help of a career thief who is doing community service at their care facility outside Las Vegas, the three of them escape and cross the desert to search for the baby Jesus in the city of sin. This is probably the most meaningful bit of writing PJ and I ever did together and was a beloved side-project for many years. On the morning she died, I got the good news that it would finally be published and was able to pass this news along to her before she began her journey to someplace new. Knowing her, I suspect that journey was in-step with the characters as they crossed the desert, and she kept them laughing all the way.

You can find copies of Nothing Stays Buried on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Traci Lambrecht joins us Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM to speak and sign the latest PJ Tracy novel, Nothing Stays Buried. 

Murder in the Afternoon Book Club to Discuss: ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS by Craig Johnson

The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets to discuss Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson on Monday, August 21st, at 1 PM on BookPeople’s third floor. You can find copies of Another Man’s Moccasins on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. 

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery 

9780143115526On August 21st, we continue our annual tradition of reading the next novel in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. Another Man’s Moccasins is the fourth book in the series and my personal favorite. Unlike previous volumes in the series, Another Man’s Moccasins takes a deeper look into aspects of the Wyoming sheriff’s past that still haunt him.

The book is actually two mysteries, linked by a mysterious woman from Walt’s past. Walt and his deputies get a call alerting them to a body dump – a Vietnamese woman has been found murdered. On her person, they find a photo of Walt’s younger self playing piano in a Saigon bar. To solve his latest murder, Walt must look back to his first murder case as a CID officer.

With its explorations of Walt’s experiences in Vietnam and the past’s relationship with the present, Another Man’s Moccasins gives us much to discuss. We’ll be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, August 21st, at 1PM. The books are 10% off to those who attend.

International Crime Fiction Pick: EASY MOTION TOURIST by Leye Adenle

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz 

9781911115069Out from Cassava Republic, a press specializing in the new wave of Nigerian writers, Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist is superb international crime fiction. Set in the sprawling metropolis of Lagos, Easy Motion Tourist follows a British web journalist on assignment to cover the Nigerian election. Just arrived in the city and out to enjoy the nightlife, the journalist instead witnesses a ritual murder of a prostitute just outside a popular nightclub catering to wealthy clientele and foreign tourists. The hapless Brit immediately gets himself arrested when he attempts to cover the story; the neighborhood cops want the crime hushed up, worried about its potential impact on tourism in their posh part of town.

Enter local activist Amaka, whose mission is to protect Lagotian prostitutes from the dangers of their profession. She has other plans for the investigation. She secures the journalist’s release (not knowing that he works for a far less prestigious publication than his initial claims to the police force) and recruits him to aid her as she looks into the private lives of those powerful men she suspects of murder. As the two get closer to the truth behind the young woman’s murder, their growing attraction is just as compelling as their investigation.

Adenle’s book takes its name from a Nigerian High Life song, and is just as bright, dynamic and whimsical as its namesake. Adenle conjures such a sense of place, the reader may finish the book and wonder that they haven’t been physically transported to the colorful setting. Inequality is extreme in the city of Lagos, yet high and low rub shoulders more than one might expect in Easy Motion Tourist. Cheerfully corrupt politicians mingle with wily sex workers, hopeless car thieves, and earnest NGO workers for a portrait of a complex city with a fine line between illicit industry and legal.

Bars full of wealthy tourists one moment are flooded by prostitutes fleeing police raids the next; scenes shift between palatial mansions full of imported goods, to working class slums teeming with creative small industries. Some neighborhoods bribe the police force to protect them, while others rally en masse to keep strike forces out (one particularly dramatic arrest sequence takes place in a neighborhood where arrests must be made at night – police are not welcome in the daylight). Upon finishing Easy Motion Tourist, I had the sense that despite Adenle’s timeless mastery of the mystery genre, his plot could only have taken place at the exact time and in the exact place in which he set the novel.

Ritualistic killings mingle with modern motivations for a murder mystery that holds its cards close until its shocking denouement. Casual violence appears throughout the book as a fact of city life, yet Adenle never dismisses the value of lives so casually cut down, drawing attention to the precarious safety of Lagos’ most vulnerable residents. Stylish action sequences and well-choreographed gun battles lend an aura of 70s cinema to the novel, and one would hope this story makes its way on screen sooner rather than later. In an interview with fellow Nigerian writer Jowhor Ile, Adenle picks Tarantino as the ideal filmmaker to turn Easy Motion Tourist into a film, and I have the same hope for this ultraviolent, ultrastylish thriller.

You can find copies of Easy Motion Tourist on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

 

 

Three Picks for August

  • Selected by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780735212459Nothing Stays Buried by PJ Tracy

The Monkeewrench Gang goes to rural Minnesota to assist with a missing persons case only to be drawn into the plot of a serial killer and drug cartels. The fine plotting and stand out ensemble of characters make Monkeewrench a stand out in is series thrillers. Co-author Traci Lambrecht will joining Mark Pryor and James Ziskin for our Scene Of The Crime discussion on Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM. You can find copies of Nothing Stays Buried on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9780374253370Safe by Ryan Gattis

A former gang banger turned DEA safe cracker thinks he’s found a way to redemption by stealing a huge sum of drug money, placing him between both sides of the law. A tight yet haunting crime novel where Gattis uses his knowledge of L.A.’s toughest streets to dive into the humanity of his characters. You can find copies of Nothing Stays Buried on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97800625673831Every Day Above Ground by Glen Eric Hamilton

Former soldier and former thief Van Shaw goes back to his criminal ways, for one last time he tells himself, for a fortune in gold, only to find himself, for fortune of gold. The job puts them in the sights of some highly trained killers. One of the most intriguing series characters in modern crime fiction. You can find copies of Every Day Above Ground on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Liv Hadden

Liv Hadden’s book The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame has the style and propulsion of a single issue comic book. Juice Box is a crazy kid whose only friend, the brooding mysterious Shane, has a past that runs them afoul of the Baltimore mob with only Juice Box’s gangster cousin, a female posing as a male, to ask for help. To say any more might ruin some wild surprises.

Liv will be at BookPeople tomorrow, August 8th, at 7 PM, along with Juice Box and Shames’ illustrator (and local tattoo artist) Mo Malone. Hadden was kind enough to answer some questions from us ahead of her event.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for Juice Box and Shame come about?

Liv Hadden: I was reading a Deadpool comic before bed one night. When I woke up the next morning, I had this vision of Juice Box and Shame (characters from my first novel, In the Mind of Revenge) on the cover of a comic book called The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame. The title is actually a sarcastic thought Shame has in the first book. I was so excited about the idea, I knew I had to make it real.

MPS: Was there any approach to Juice Box’s voice?

LH: I wanted him to contrast Shame in a lot of ways: optimistic, naive, wants to fit in versus cynical, broody, rebels against societal norms. Juice Box also lives a very sheltered life, so he has a level of immaturity I needed to capture. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Thurman Merman from Bad Santa – kind of cute, definitely blind to the main character’s dark side, a bit annoying, but has a heart of gold. Given his interest in becoming a rap musician, I tried to use some of the vernacular we hear in music today. To be completely transparent, I pulled a lot from how I remember my fraternity friends speaking in college. You know, suburban kids throwing around YOLO like a personal mantra – that kind of thing.

MPS: How did Mo Malone get involved as an illustrator?

LH: Mo also happens to be a fantastic tattoo artist. I met her four years ago when I wanted to do a cover up of a piece on my ribs. I loved her and her work so much, I had her cover my entire back. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time together, so she learned about my writing and I about her art. She mentioned a couple times how she would love to start illustrating books. When I got this idea, I immediately called her. Lucky for me, she said yes!

MPS: While the story is prose it seems to draw from music, movies, and comic books. Where there any specific influences you had while working on it?

LH: I’m influenced by so many different kinds of creativity, it was easy for me to channel some of the things I enjoy into Juice Box’s character. Since a Deadpool comic is what inspired the idea, both the movie and comics played a huge part in the style of the artwork and the informal narrative voice. I’m also a huge J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar fan; even though Juice Box is a poser himself, he would idolize musicians worth their weight; so in my mind, if he were living today, those would be two of his favorites as well. I also referenced Jeff Chang and his dynamic with his father from the movie 21 & Over. When I picture Juice Box, he looks just like Justin Chon, the actor who plays Jeff Chang.

MPS: What appealed to you about using crime fiction to move the story?

LH: Some of my all-time favorite childhood memories were binge watching episodes of Law & Order with my mom. There were so many moments I can remember feeling so absorbed in the storylines, I was experiencing real emotions about all these fake people. To me, that’s what storytelling is all about. I’ve found that crime, mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories always appeal to me. I love wondering what’s going to happen next, and I especially love a compelling villain. Even better, a story where I’m not so sure who the villain actually is – something that questions the validity of the good versus evil concept. Crime fiction provides so many opportunities to show it’s really all about perspective.

Liv Hadden comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her second novel to feature the character Juicebox, The Adventures of Juicebox and Shame, on Tuesday, August 8th, at 7 PM. You can find copies on our shelves or via bookpeople.com