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Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Murder Mystery March

Book of the Month: “The Only One Left”
Thrilling.+The+Only+One+Left+by+Riley+Sager+is+his+most+recent+release+to+date.+Readers+can+look+forward+to+his+next+book%2C+which+will+be+released+in+the+summer+of+2024%2C+Middle+of+the+Night.+
Mattie Baker
Thrilling. “The Only One Left” by Riley Sager is his most recent release to date. Readers can look forward to his next book, which will be released in the summer of 2024, “Middle of the Night”.

Hope’s End is a sprawling estate seated on a lonely seaside cliff, outside a lonely seaside town. It also happens to be the place where a young woman reportedly murdered her entire family. 

Kit McDeere is a young caregiver who was recently released from a six-month suspension from her job. Because of her questionable past, the only job she can get is taking care of the now-elderly town legend, Lenora Hope. Aka, the woman accused of brutally killing her parents and younger sister decades ago. Only now, Lenora is so weak she rarely ever leaves her bed, and she only communicates with Kitt using an old typewriter in her room. 

After a rocky start, Kitt and Lenora form a bond over their separate, but not so different, traumas. Lenora even begins to open up to her caregiver about her past…including that night all those years ago. But just as the women begin to trust each other, the tragedies of the house begin to take their toll. Still, Kitts is not ready to give up. She needs answers, even if they aren’t the ones she wants. 

“The Only One Left” stands as Riley Sager’s most recent book, released in the summer of 2023, and it may just be his best. Within its pages are elements of murder mystery, horror and drama expertly mixed together into the perfect chilling concoction. 

That being said, the novel explores much more than the stereotypical who-dunnit concepts. It also discusses the physicality of guilt–how regret goes much deeper than the grave. The unshakeable curse of generational trauma–how families are capable of ripping themselves apart from the inside. And the importance of a single action–how one thing can affect everything. 

Sager crafts a terrifyingly honest tale of grief, love and the horrors they both bring, all while breathing life into the universal tragedy of loss. He’s proven himself to be an increasingly admirable thriller author over the years. “The House Across the Lake” and “Home Before Dark” are some of the most popular Sager page-turners. 

But this novel sets itself apart from the others. Sager tried many new techniques in “The Only One Left”, including leaning into the Gothic horror genre with the atmosphere and setting. He makes great use of it with the eerie, frozen-in-time Hope House, which is slowly crumbling into the sea. He also focuses more on familial relations than he has in previous books. Still, he continues a few of his writing trends in “The Only One Left”. Grief and loss often play a large role in Sager’s thrillers and are often portrayed through nearly supernatural means. This is not lost in “The Only One Left”, as not only the house but the suspicious characters that help take care of it have a somewhat sinister air to them. 

Sager also continuously places an emphasis on mental illness and mental health throughout this book, as well as in many others. This is typically through the main character who, in this case, is Kitt McDeere. McDeere teeters on the brink of insanity–much like Hope House resting on the very edge of the decaying cliff–, for much of the book, which really adds to the suspense and overall sense of dread laced into it. Add that to Sager’s phenomenal writing style, and they make a powerful force sure to draw in any crowd with a taste for thrills and chills. 

Afterall, what horror enthusiast could resist this Lizzie Borden-style nursery rhyme? 

“At seventeen, Lenora Hope/Hung her sister with a rope/Stabbed her father with a knife/Took her mother’s happy life/‘It wasn’t me,’ Lenora said/But she’s the only one not dead”.

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About the Contributor
Mattie Baker
Mattie Baker, Reporter
My name is Mattie Baker, and this is my first year on staff! I've always loved reading and writing. My goal this year is to write a complete book. My dream job, at the moment, is to work at Barnes & Nobles and drink Starbucks on the daily. I'm obsessed with action movies like "Bullet Train," "John Wick" and "James Bond." I also have a passion for art. I've been taking extra art classes for over 10 years! Later in my life, I hope to be a storyboard artist and author.

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