Another day another Riley Sager novel that I desperately wanted to love slightly more than I did. This wasn’t bad by any means, but I did find the ending ultimately overwhelming after a fairly intense build-up throughout the first half of the book. I didn’t dislike it, but I do feel like I’m still chasing the high of my first Sager book.
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
About the book:
Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.
One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.
What did I think?
I’ll start with the good stuff. The writing is still good, and the book is decently paced. There are before and after sections and the after sections were well-spaced out. They kept me curious without spoiling the narrative arc of the before sections. The pace picked up as the book went on and really fit the heart-pounding feeling of watching a horror movie as you get closer to the end. I read most of it in one sitting, and it was as easy to read as ever. The hints scattered throughout built intrigue and made me want to know more, even as I wildly theorised. I liked the premise a lot, but that leads me to my main points of frustration – the execution.
I don’t mind a good trope, and the alcoholic sees something across the street (or across the lake) and nobody believes her is a decent trope when done well. Unfortunately, Riley Sager doesn’t write Casey in a particularly convincing way. It makes her fall flat in several ways, and undermined what could have been some really wow-ing plot twists. The romance was aggressively shoe-horned in. It didn’t really make any sense, and I absolutely refuse to be convinced that he’s a good person. Not happening! No way!
The depiction of Casey’s alcoholism really irritated me. In some scenes she was shaking and desperate for a drink, and in others she went a whole day before ‘remembering’ she hadn’t had a drink. There was no kind of withdrawal, even though we were told she was actively and explicitly drinking daily. Equally in one scene she had a few drinks and was passed out cold, and in another scene, she had twice as many and rowed full pelt across a lake. I’ve never experienced alcoholism, but it didn’t feel authentic to me, just that it was being used as a plot device.
I spent a week after I finished HOME AFTER DARK fuming that I wanted a paranormal ending to that novel. And after reading THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, I’d have preferred a non-paranormal ending. I find myself increasingly frustrated as Riley Sager builds up atmosphere and twists pretty well but the endings are consistently underwhelming. I wanted to see something new from him but, I guess not like this. At this point I think that this is very much a me problem, and Riley Sager’s books aren’t for me. Time to put my hands up and admit it.
Release Date: 7th July 2022