Book Review / Reviews with Spoilers / Riley Sager

Riley Sager | The House Across The Lake

The Book: 

The House Across The Lake by Riley Sager
Published June 21st 2022 by Dutton
Date read: June 8, 2022

The Characters: 


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

The Plot (from Goodreads):

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.

Click here for book spoilers for The House Across The Lake
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The House Across The Lake, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist:

Len had killed the missing girls. Casey knew and killed him, and that’s why she started drinking so heavily. She was the one who sent the postcards saying the bodies were in Lake Green.

In a weird supernatural element, Len “came back” from the dead in the body of Katherine. His spirit crawled inside her one night when she was swimming in the lake. Tom had tied Katherine up in one of the neighbor’s empty houses while he tried to figure out what was wrong with her. Casey saw him going into the neighbor’s house, followed him, and found Katherine, who said she was really Len.

Casey stole Len/Katherine from Tom and tied Tom up in the neighbor’s house, while she took Len/Katherine back to her own to question him. He admitted to killing the girls and where their bodies were. Casey realized that she couldn’t kill Len/Katherine without killing Katherine, so she took Len’s spirit into her own body to try to kill both herself and Len.

Casey tried to drown her body and Len’s spirit in the lake, but Katherine saved her. When Katherine pulled her out of the water, Len’s spirit was gone.

Casey confessed to Wilma that she knew that Len had killed the missing girls.

When she gets back to her house, she decides that Tom was trying to kill Katherine after all, in addition to everything else. Tom was there and attacked Casey, because he was trying to kill Katherine. Casey killed him. Katherine survived.

The Ending:

Casey ended up dating Boone and staying friends with Katherine. There was a media circus surrounding the fact that Len was a serial killer and that Tom had tried to kill Katherine, but they never told anyone about the paranormal stuff.

The Review: 

Thank you to PRH Audio for a gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

To my great disappointment, this is the first time I have disliked a Riley Sager novel.

I’m not really sure how to review this without any spoilers, but it was not for me. For the rest of this review I will do my best not to spoil, but if you’d prefer to go in blind I suggest you stop now. I know a lot of fans will read this one no matter the review because of Riley Sager’s name–rightly so, I will certainly be reading his next book despite not loving this one. If you’re in that boat, my opinion doesn’t matter!

If you’re picky with your thrillers, though, read on.

The first half of this book was another Woman In The Window repeat. Drunk widow spies on her neighbors, sees something fishy, and no one believes her because she’s a notorious drunk. Add in a splash of fame–the MC is a former actor, and the victim across the lake is a former supermodel.

Now, because this is Riley Sager, I knew there would be a twist I didn’t see coming.

I suspected...

I even put a poll in my IG stories to see if people thought it improved in the second half–the results were about 50/50.

In my opinion, the answer was no. There was in fact a twist I didn’t guess, but it was delivered by way of a thriller trope I absolutely despise.

Spoiler thoughts
Similar to Behind Her Eyes, Sager relied on pulling a supernatural twist out of nowhere to surprise the reader. Was this billed as supernatural? No. Could it have been done without the bizarre supernatural aspect? Yes. Would I have liked it way more without the paranormal cop-out? Also yes.

The ending also just made no sense and was somewhat over the top. Overall, just not my preferred style of thriller. If you read it, expand all my spoilers and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Click here for minor spoilers regarding the mis-labeled genre:
This book is paranormal, which is not everyone’s speed. This is technically a spoiler, but I feel like it’s important to know going into it! If I knew it was paranormal/outside the realm of realistic outcomes, I would have liked it a lot more. But expecting a thriller and getting paranormal is a huge pet peeve of mine.
If you’ve read this one (or just don’t care about spoilers), click here for my spoiler discussion!
I said it before and I’ll say it again–it’s a cop-out to make the twist something completely impossible! It’s in the same vein as the “just kidding, it was all a dream” trope. 

I go into a thriller under the mindset of trying to figure out the clues and guess the ending. When there’s no realistic ending to guess, I get frustrated that all my efforts were in vain. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a paranormal book in the right setting. But when I pick up a book that I know is paranormal or magical realism, I suspend all belief and just enjoy the story. I’m much more critical of thrillers, and need them to have a realistic explanation.

I think Riley Sager did this well in Home Before Dark–it was a paranormal book on the surface and made you think ghosts were banging in the night, but everything had a real-world explanation in the end. I would have greatly preferred some sort of real-world explanation here. For example, maybe Casey drunkenly came across a confession from Len, admitting where the bodies were hidden, and then Eli told the ghost stories about the lake, and then she drank Tom’s drugged wine so she hallucinated Len being in Katherine’s body? I don’t know, I’m not the author. I just feel like the story could’ve been told without the paranormal cop-out.

I give Sager an A+ for creativity. Once I was in the right mindset of suspended belief, I enjoyed the concept. The ending was still too out-there for me, but we were too far gone at that point.

Audio Review

I rarely say this, but for this book I don’t think the narrator was a great fit for the main character. Bernadette Dunn is certainly a professional and I had no issues with the production of this audiobook, but to me her voice sounded a lot older than the age she was meant to portray. Casey, the main character, was 36, but Dunn’s voice made me picture a woman in her mid-60s. That’s just my silly opinion, though. Dunn certainly doesn’t look that old according to the pictures I Googled, either! Her voice is somewhat husky and gravely, which did align with Casey’s alcoholism.

Did you read The House Across the Lake?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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July 5, 2022 at 7:54 pm

I googled and found your review specifically about the audiobook narrator. She absolutely sounds like she’s in her 60s and it distracted me the entire book

    July 5, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you agree! I felt a little bad saying that, because I googled the narrator and she is definitely not in her 60s. But I was picturing a 60-year-old the whole time which did not jive with some scenes!

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