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


Friday Face Off : Off the TBR : The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (Detective Elin Warner #)


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

Off the TBR

You may have noticed my blog has been unusually quiet.  At the moment i’m having a fortnight break with family which is the reason for this abrupt disappearance.  I’ve not given up blogging, just having a holiday and normal service will soon be resumed. I haven’t been reading lots either, because lots of socialising has been involved.  But,  we’ve all had a good time and hopefully i’ll be back on track soon.

This week is a book with different covers off the TBR. I feel like nobody I know will struggle with this week’s theme 😀  I’ve chosen a review book, The Retreat by Sarah Pearse (Detective Elin Warner #).  I wasn’t totally in love with the first in series (The Sanatorium) but it ended on a puzzling note and so want to give the second in series a shot.


29th Gigantic – monsters, giants, buildings,insects – anything at all
5th Tough Travel Tropes – out for summer – school or academic setting
12th Dark/sky/navy  – a cover that is blue
19th Scantily Dressed
26th Tough Travel Tropes – Vacation time – the quest
September RIP
2nd Fallen leaves – covers that are brown
9th Armour/Protection
16th Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or serie

The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

My Five Word TL:DR Review : In two minds about this

The Retreat is going to be an unusual review to write because I seriously am in two minds about this one.  On the one hand I loved the writing.  The book is absolutely full of atmosphere.  It’s a locked room mystery.  The setting is excellent and the sense of nature well described but on the other hand I found the ending a little unresolved in some respects and the antagonist lacking motivation or believability.

As the book begins (and after a dramatic opening prologue) we meet Maeve Martin as she arrives at the High Water Centre for the Arts.  Tucked up in the Rocky Mountains is a beautiful lodge surrounded by trees and nature.  The Retreat boasts quiet space, a stunning lodge and small cabins where people can work uninterrupted.  Maeve has taken a two week break and aims to use the time to formulate a plan for her own dance company.  Unfortunately, not long after her arrival disaster strikes.  Ever worsening weather leads to an avalanche and the centre is completely cut off from any means of contact with the outside world.

Without doubt The Retreat excels in terms of the writing.  Mariaffi conjures up a fantastic setting and then proceeds to cloak it in the most creepy and pervasive atmosphere.  In fact the first two thirds of the book held me gripped – I sat up into the early hours reading and I can say that I was genuinely a little freaked out – by which I mean scared!  The final third was where the ploit started to hot up and the body count began to rise.

I think, if memory serves, that there were seven people left stranded following the avalanche, a mix of people, a couple of characters who run the retreat and a mix of creatives including artists, film makers and dancers. Maeve feels a little like an insider as the others have all met previously and she often doesn’t understand the nuances of the group and their inside jokes.  There appears to be rivalry, particularly between certain characters and Maeve’s arrival seems to be the catalyst for things to escalate.  Maeve is coming to terms with a number of things.  She experienced a violent marriage that has now ended and she is also coming to terms with the fact that her dancing career is coming to a conclusion and trying to think of her future.  She’s left her two children in the care of their grandmother although she seemed to have a rocky relationship with her mother that leaves her anxious.  We find out much of Maeve’s history over the course of the story but it’s included in a very natural way and adds to the feelings of tension and fear that Maeve experiences.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I think the plot became a little chaotic in the final quarter (or Day 7).  I wouldn’t say that I came away from the book with all my questions answered and the eventual murderer seemed very thinly drawn to me.  I just didn’t buy into the motivations or reasoning to be honest. I noticed a few reviewers mentioned the over long chapters – I wouldn’t say that I found this a problem but each chapter represents one day and some of the chapters are indeed quite lengthy so bear that in mind.

To be fair to the author, and in spite of my reservations I still came away from this read with more positives than negatives.  I loved the writing and I guess the plot played second fiddle a little to that aspect.

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

My rating – between 3.5 and 4 of 5 stars