The Retreat – Sarah Pearse

Published By: HQ
Pages: 368
Released On: 21/07/2022

Most are here to recharge and refresh. But someone’s here for revenge.

An eco-wellness retreat has opened on an island off the English coast, promising rest and relaxation – but the island itself, known locally as Reaper’s Rock, has a dark past. Once the playground of a serial killer, it’s rumoured to be cursed.

Detective Elin Warner is called to the retreat when a young woman’s body is found on the rocks below the yoga pavilion in what seems to be a tragic fall. But the victim isn’t a guest – she wasn’t meant to be on the island at all.

When a guest drowns in a diving incident the following day, Elin starts to suspect that there’s nothing accidental about these deaths. But why would someone target the guests, and who else is in danger?

Elin must find the killer – before the island’s history starts to repeat itself.


Thanks to NetGalley and HQ for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

Sarah’s debut book The Sanatorium was one of the best thrillers I’d ever read, so I admit I did make a very unladylike squeal when I received an early e-copy of this (and believe me, I’ll definitely be buying it when it comes out in physical copies).

I didn’t realise initially that this was number two in a series of books and reviews some of the characters from her debut. Whilst it’s not a necessity to have read The Sanatorium to enjoy this one, they can both be standalone reads, I do think knowing the background of the characters and what they’ve been through beforehand shines an extra light on this one.

I felt this one had more work to do. The Sanatorium was so thrillingly tense and frightening, but it was a one off. Whereas this one has a lot to live up to. And dare I say it, I think this was even better, and it had a hard mountain to climb.

Now I know this was part of a series, I am hopeful for more stories. It’s a satisfying conclusion but it leaves you wanting more and more, teasing you with ideas, and you just want her to write this series forever.

One of the best things for me is Sarah’s use of weather and her description of weather. It’s so well done it becomes a character of itself, it’s absolutely first class. You can hear the wind, feel the rain, sense yourself getting stuck in the storm with the characters, holding your asth until you come out the other side, it adds a whole other dynamic to an already thrilling story. I personally don’t think you can learn how to write weather as well as that, I think it’s a natural ability and she’s definitely got that.

In combination with her use of weather, she has perfect the writing of isolation and claustrophobia. With both of her books, she has set them in isolated places, abandoned buildings now reborn, but with an undercurrent of evil. As a reader, if the author manages to make you feel uncomfortable in the comfort of your own home, I think is an immense talent.

I will say one thing, Sarah (I hope you don’t mind me using your first name, I feel so absorbed in your writing it’s like I know a piece of you), if you’re reading this, I want to know how you write something like this. Do you know who did it and how and why, and then work backwards? Or do you start with the questions and then work the answer out as you go? Thrillers and murder mysteries fascinate me, the way little twists and red herrings can be dropped in now and again, things that seem innocuous at first read but end up pointing directly to the answer.

I’ve had this book on my e-shelf for a while, teasing me, waiting for me to read it. And now I’m almost sad that I have read it, as I no longer have it to look forward to.

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