The Retreat by Sarah Pearse

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Unfortunately, Mixed Feelings for This


The Retreat is my second book by Sarah Pearse.  I read The Sanatorium and it did give me certain issues.  However, it was an entertaining read and I certainly didn’t struggle to complete it – just more that I was left feeling slightly dissatisfied and to be honest I had the same feeling at the conclusion of the Retreat.

The Retreat follows a very similar style to The Sanatorium.  Here we have a rather exclusive retreat set on a small island (with something of a back history).  We once again follow Detective Elin Warner who is once again beset with personal issues as well as still struggling with a former incident at work.  Elin is called to the island to investigate the death of a guest at the retreat.  It appears to be a fairly clear cut case of accidental death except there are little irritating issues and these are compounded when a second death occurs.

I’m not going to overly elaborate on the plot but instead give a recap of my various feelings throughout the read.

I think one of my earliest, and clearest feelings was that at the start of the read quite a number of characters are introduced and personally I didn’t feel like they stood out well, for me they were a little confusingly similar.  To sum up there are three sisters and their spouses (although one of the sisters was prevented from attending due to work and also a cousin.  It soon becomes evident that there’s a lot of history and bad feeling between the group and this certainly helps to paint them all in the role of suspect at certain points.  It did beg the question for me though as to why all these adults would think it would be a good idea to spend time together like this when all they seem to do is backstab and bicker.

The Island itself also has a disturbing history.  Violent murders were committed on the island a number of years ago, the murderer now behind bars.  There was also an old boy’s school on the island which seems to have been the setting for some rather dark occurences and to top it all off there is a famous rock on the island that actually resembles the Grim Reaper.  No wonder people harbour fear and suspicion about the place.  Which does puzzle me as to why this particular setting would be chosen for a luxury retreat – for me that was one of those little brain worms that just wouldn’t let go. Why would you do it?

I do enjoy the writing and think Pearse sets the scene well.  The island was easy to imagine and the author ramps up the creep factor on a number of occasions and towards the end the pressure is really on and I confess that my heart was in my throat at certain points.  But, in spite of that I felt that there was just too much going on in this plot.  It just felt a bit muddy and complicated and it feels similar to how I felt reading the Sanatorium – which does make me think this is perhaps a case of ‘it’s me, not you’.

Overall, this was easy to read, it did hold my attention and I was very curious about what was going on, but, It had a slow start, a lot of characters and a complicated plot that is perhaps just not my style.  I wouldn’t discourage others from picking this up I just don’t think it was my cup of tea particularly.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3 of 5 stars

3 Responses to “The Retreat by Sarah Pearse”

  1. Tammy

    I remember your review of The Sanitorium which is why this one wasn’t really on my radar. Too many characters is definitely a red flag for me.

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Dang, I’m sad to see this wasn’t a huge improvement over the Sanatorium. I think we had similar issues with that one too, so I might have to rethink this.

  3. pagesandtea

    So much of this sounds like it could make a really good tale so it’s a shame it didn’t quite work out for you. I remember thinking similar when I read your Sanitorium review a while ago too.

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