Ginger Nuts of Horror
By Tony Jones
“The slasher film inspires an entertaining thriller”
First and foremost Riley Sager’s “Final Girls” is an old fashioned page-turner and I really don’t read enough of them. You’ll quite easily begin on a Friday evening and munch up the 342 pages finishing it in good time for the Sunday roast. I most certainly did. Like huge selling “Gone Girl” and “Girl on the Train” it’s also probably one of those books will readers will devour and then claim not to like at all, even though they just read it in two days flat! A guilty pleasure.
“Final Girls” also had major pre-publication hype with Ebury eventually buying it after an intense seven way bidding war. The buzz was heightened when Stephen King weighed in with this juicy quote: “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this” stating it was one of the first great novels of 2017. There have also been some raised eyebrows over the fact that author Todd Ritter has chosen to use a gender neutral pseudo name which casual buyers and browsers may presume is a woman.
So Todd (or Riley) is most definitely a man and is a huge horror fan, especially slasher films. If you track him down on Twitter you’ll be cheered to see scream queen legend Jamie Lee Curtis is his Avatar. His love of horror films is stamped all over “Final Girls” with “Halloween” and the complex multi-stranded Wes Craven classic “Scream” his favourites, the latter having more of a background influence on the origins of his novel.
Think back to many of the top slasher films, many have one thing in common - only one female character survives. Riley Sager argues that this is not really a happy ending as their life is in ruins, they are psychologically damaged and all their friends are dead. Marilyn Burns from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is another example the author uses in an interview. This is the premise for “Final Girls” and in briefly summarising the plot, I don’t want to give too much away:
Over a period of ten or so years there are three major incidents when there are mass killings with only one young female survivor. They are not connected, the women don’t know each other and they become tabloid celebrities being branded ‘Final Girls’. This moniker sticks. The novel focusses upon Quincy who is the third and most recent of the ‘Final Girls’, she avoids the media and does not do interviews, surviving with a cake-making blog and a supportive lawyer boyfriend. However, when the oldest of the ‘Final Girls‘, Lisa, is found dead under mysterious circumstances the second of the ‘Final Girls’, Sam, turns up on Quincy’s doorstep. The media get wind of this meeting and the two women discuss about what happened to Lisa. To say anymore of the plot would spoil it, but expect some major twists and turns… Some very clever and others very dumb…
The novel is seen entirely from the point of view from Quincy who really is a bit of a cry-baby, she’s no Jamie Lee Curtis, but I found myself warming to her as she guzzled booze and popped pill after pill. Like any slasher film, true to form, she is also incredibly gullible as she finds herself caught in the spider’s web woven by Sam and makes dumb decision after another. A second strand of the story strand takes the reader back to the cabin where Quincy’s friends were all murdered and the circumstances which led to it. The problem is Quincy cannot remember what happened and only suffered superficial injuries and was questioned by the police at the time. The plot thickens, it’s never dull, and poor old Quincy turns into a bit of a car crash, but it’s all part of the fun.
Like the horror films the novel is inspired by, there is always a candidate who is too obvious to be the killer, but then there is always a second character you REALLY think is the killer. However, then it always turns out to be another character completely! This book was a bit like that, actually, it reminded me more of another slasher film I am not going to mention by name as it might give too many clues. So it was sleazy, forgettable dumb fun all the way.
“Final Girls” was most definitely more of a thriller than a horror novel, but horror fans who cross into thrillers are unlikely to be disappointed. The author has mentioned Stephen King, Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott as major influences, the first two are pretty obvious, but if you don’t know Megan Abbott I highly recommend you checking her out. She is a stupendously versatile writer who consistently produces high quality novels which like “Final Girls” are more thriller than horror, are incredibly layered, psychologically clever, and full of wonderfully damaged characters loaded with secrets. She’s very cool and undoubtedly the only author in the world who could mesh teenage gymnastics and murder successfully.
If you liked GONE GIRL you'll like this' STEPHEN KING
FIRST THERE WERE THREE
The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.
THEN THERE WERE TWO
But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or...
CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?
All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.