The Retreat by Mark Edwards
A missing child. A desperate mother. And a house full of secrets.
Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.
Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.
When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…
What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?
The Retreat is without a doubt a psychological thriller. It has elements of folklore and mythology scattered throughout. But ultimately it is the ‘whodunit’ or ‘whatdunit’ that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The synopsis is perfect and gives just enough information to gather a reader’s interest. A missing girl, a mother in grief, a tormented author and local legends. A recipe for success.
The prologue opens from the perspective of Lily on the fateful day she disappeared. It is eerie, and you know from the onset that the author has many more eerie scenes waiting to be unleashed upon the reader. . .
‘Mum’s cries faded into the distance as those strong arms carried her away’
Lucas Radcliffe arrives in his hometown of Beddmawr, Wales. He is headed to Nyth Bran, a writer’s retreat. He is looking forward to the quiet pace of life, seclusion and scenery. He is also hoping to find some inspiration for his next novel. His debut novel Sweetmeat was a breakout success and he has developed a case of writer’s block.
It would appear LJ Radcliffe has come to just the right place. . . .
Upon arriving at the retreat, he is quickly introduced to Julia. The other guests are at the local pub and so Lucas doesn’t meet them until much later. He states he would like at least a month stay, possibly more. He marvels at what a beautiful setting the retreat is and tells Julia of his background. Julia appears disinterested, yet Lucas is quite taken with her nonchalant approach to him.
Later on, the other guests arrive. They are quite the bunch of characters. There is Max lake, literary author and booky snob. Suzi Hastings, an aspiring debut novelist. Karen Holden, a mature lady, who is self-published. Over drinks they inform Lucas of the retreats do’s and don’ts. Whilst also telling him the wi-fi is next to useless and mobile signal non-existent.
Lucas is still itching to know more about Julia herself and through various acquaintances during his stay, he begins to understand her traumatic past. How her husband died trying to save their only child. How her daughter is still missing and how Julia is convinced she is still alive. What he learns via gossip, he keeps to himself. Not sharing with Julia what he has come to know.
We also learn that Lucas himself has known his own share of heartbreak, pain and grief. His backstory is detailed, and I found it actually made him much more believable and likable. From that moment on, I knew his interest in Julia was genuine and trustful,
or is it?
‘You’re not welcome here’
There are several incidents in the night hours, that lead the group to believe that the retreat maybe haunted. They all admit they are rational and logical people. Yet, quickly the succumb to believing in ghost stories and ancient myths.
Lucas remains level headed throughout.
Julia’s daughter’s disappearance disturbs Lucas so much, he asks a PI to investigate the case. To see if there are potentially any leads on Lily’s whereabouts. But with 2yrs having passed, it has little chance of coming to fruition.
But Lucas simply can’t get the case out of his head!
As the plot unravels more and more details are revealed. All of the town’s secrets shall be unearthed and many have secrets they would rather take to the grave. It did occur to be throughout that, everything and everyone Lucas comes into contact with mysterious circumstances occur. Had I been too quick to trust Lucas?
What do we the reader, really know about Lucas?
There are lots of twists and no one you can really trust. I became quite obsessed with Lucas myself, he just attracts trouble and problems wherever he goes. But for all intents and purposes, he makes an amazing protagonist for this very reason.
Folklore, urban legends and myths are huge right now in the psychological and thriller genre and this is definitely not one to be missed. 4*
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