This novel follows Emma, a young woman who is haunted by the disappearance of three girls when she was at Camp Nightingale, fifteen years earlier. Emma, a painter who has just gotten her first art show, is an up and comer, who is afraid that people will find out not only what she has done in her paintings, but the lies she continually attempts to cover up with her paintings. Emma is most often haunted by Vivian, the girl who took her under her wings when she arrived as a scared 13 year old at Camp Nightingale. Now, the Camp is being opened back up, trying to start over and forget about the disappearance of the three girls fifteen years earlier. Emma is invited by the owner, Franny, to come be a an art instructor, teaching a new batch of campers to paint. When tragedy strikes again, and Emma falls under the suspicion of the police, she must decide, is it time to tell the truth, or has she just buried herself too deep under her lies.
This book is in the same suspenseful vein as Sager's first novel, Final Girls. It has a build up of suspense as the reader needs to decide what is going on, and who they should believe. There are a few twists to make the reader relax, and feel as if they do know what is going on, before it twists again, telling the reader how wrong they are.
Emma is an unreliable narrator. She is a woman who went through and didn't get over, something traumatic that happened to her when she was still a child. She is crazy, and continues to try to convince herself, and the reader, that she isn't crazy. In reality, she likely is since she hasn't really dealt with the trauma, and doesn't seem to be over the disappearances that happened. Most of the other characters are limited in their development, as the reader doesn't get enough information to make judgements for themselves about whether they believe a person is guilty or not. I would have liked a little more development of both Theo and Chet, Franny's two adopted sons. I would have liked to know a little more about their history, or something that could have added a little to their characters. This was especially desired because both boys played very important parts in the story, both in the past disappearances and the present trauma.
Other characters that could have used more development, were, well, most of them. There were characters from the past when Emma was a child at camp, and they weren't given much development, except to say one was an excellent photographer, and the other was a constant smoker. Also, the only character that got development in the present was Chet's wife, Mindy, who was able to tell part of her story when she was in a room with Emma.
The ending of this was a little unsatisfying. I wanted something more along the lines of Final Girls, but instead got something that was trying too hard when it didn't need to. I didn't think the ending was good enough for the book I was reading, and for me, it left me feeling like I had read the book expecting something that was never delivered. While the ending of Final Girls fit the book, the ending to The Last Time I Lied didn't really seem to fit, and it was trying to hard to place the blame on someone who wasn't guilty. It was, in the end, annoying and unsatisfying.