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Everything You Need to Know About Riley Sager's The Only One Left

This book is a great one, but not the only one of his career. 

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  • Photo Credit: Fabrizio Conti / Unsplash

Riley Sager launched into the thriller scene seven years ago. His first novel, Final Girls, was a smashing success garnering blurbs from Stephen King and won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Hard Cover Novel, firmly cementing Sager as a thriller writer to watch. 

Since then, he’s released a book every year at an impressively steady pace. His hit last summer was a gothic thriller set in the 80s that we’re still obsessed with. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, here’s everything you want to know about The Only One Left by Riley Sager. 

Riley Sager The Only One Left 

In 1929, the Hope family murders shook the Maine coast. Everyone believed seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, even if the police couldn’t prove it. After speaking to the police, Lenora refused to talk to anyone, locking herself inside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where her family was massacred. 

Now, it’s 1983. Kit McDeere is the newest home health aide to arrive at the decrepit Hope’s End. Lenora is in her seventies, and after a series of strokes is confined to a wheelchair and forced to communicate only through typing on an old typewriter.

None of that explains why the last aide fled in the middle of the night.  

But Lenora wants to finally set the record straight. 

As Kit helps Lenora unravel the events leading up to the massacre, she suspects there are things Lenora isn’t telling the truth about. Things only a few people know.

Things that might make Lenora very dangerous, indeed. 

the only one left

The Only One Left

By Riley Sager

Is The Only One Left Based on a True Story? 

The plot might bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain family massacre that also has a catchy rhyme. But in an interview with The Big Thrill, Sager admits to only being inspired by the Lizzie Borden case. 

While there are many similarities: a woman accused of murdering her family who stays despite being ostracized by the town, other details are clearly different. Lenora never left her family home and wants to finally tell her story.

But of course, she isn’t the only one in this novel with secrets. 

Who is Riley Sager? 

Riley Sager is actually a pen name. Todd Ritter is the author’s real name, who has also published under Alan Finn. Sager worked in several other fields before becoming a full-time writer, including a journalist, editor, and graphic designer. 

So, why the pen name? His first novels didn’t have the sales both Sager and his agent hoped, and when it came time to find a new publisher, his agent insisted on a pen name.

Riley comes from the combination of his parents’ names, Ray and Linda, with Sager coming from his grandmother. 

How Does The Only One Left Compare to Sager’s Other Novels? 

One thing you can always expect from a Riley Sager novel is atmosphere. And The Only One Left is no different.

Set in a mansion that’s falling apart, you can’t help but find yourself wrapped in gothic vibes. It’s not just a house, it’s a place with history, with a presence, and it only adds to the creepy vibe of the plot. 

You also get explosive narration, told in the first-person. It puts you in the character’s head, firmly and unequivocally, where for better or worse, you can’t escape. There are plot twists, complicated characters hiding things, and a pace that forces you to keep turning the page. 

And readers agree. The Only One Left has the most reviews on Goodreads, almost reaching 280,000 and still maintaining a solid four-star rating. It’s not just his most popular novel numbers-wise, but the highest star rating out of all his books. 

The Only One Left by Riley Sager Movie  

Many people are wondering if there will be an adaptation. So far, no announcements have been made regarding any official plans to adapt The Only One Left.

But as Sager's books continue to gain popularity, there’s no reason to believe it won’t eventually be made into an adaptation. Just look at his other books.

The Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied, Home Before Dark, and The House Across the Lake have all been optioned and are in various stages of development with studios. 

Featured image: Fabrizio Conti / Unsplash