Review of The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Four women.
Four secrets.
A weekend that will change them forever…if they survive.
Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.
Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiance invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends–one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship–Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.
Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

The Retreat isn’t my usual read, you’ll be used to reading reviews of mainly YA and Fantasy on this blog, but I’ve been wanting to broaden my reading horizons for a while and The Retreat totally drew me in with it’s premise. This is a contemporary psychological thriller, very adult in themes with some really dark elements and I absolutely loved it. The cover is great with eerie colouring and a staircase that will make your head spin if you stare at it too long, I’m incredibly grateful to Titan books for providing this review copy.

From the outset Sherri Smith makes a brave move in creating a world with characters that are pretty abhorrent. From the deeply unpleasant Katie Manning to the just about tolerable smugness of Ellie, you’ll spend the opening pages feeling that you’re really not bothered in who is the ultimate surviver in this quartet. This did though give each character a bit of a black canvas feel in that there was huge scope for a redemption story, character growth and development which we get in spades. One of my favourite parts about reading this book was the fact that the author did such an amazing job at making me go full circle with my feelings about these characters, from loathsome to likeable and for some, back to loathsome again. As the story progressed and we get to find out more about these women and what has shaped them I was surprised at how my feelings changed and actually, quite soon in to the story I found I did care who lived and died! The banter between them (and the not so friendly jibes) was really well written, full of the snark and snide you would expect from friendships of circumstance.

The story is told in the multiple POV’s of the four women, this is a style that works really well in the context of the book. For much of The Retreat they are not the gaggling group that they could have been as each finds themselves on their own path, sometimes at odds with one another. I’m a massive fan of multiple POV books as I feel it gives much greater scope for storytelling, The women needed this approach as it gave the time for the reader to really be caught up in their desperation and devastation.  The retreat itself at first seems an unlikely setting for such a thriller and whilst I’m peripherally aware of the psychodellic tea, wellness retreats not so much, and honestly this probably wasn’t the book to sell me on them! The Retreat had an eerily cultish feel to it, those that run it so caught up in their own rhetoric it really added to the underlying current of dread which ran throughout.

As the fatalities start to roll in the depth of the twists become unreal, whilst there are some breadcrumbs laid, I think I was just so caught up in the story I didn’t give them the dues I should have. I need to add that I read this within 48 hours, such was the pace and intrigue that even when I had put it down, I soon found myself picking it back up again. The long and languid opening chapters morphing into short almost frantic ones as a crescendo builds into the closing stages. This was such a great decision (one of many) by the author as it helped the pages turn and the shocks to explode.

I absolutely loved The Retreat, the writing is outstanding, the plot development and characterisation is out of this world and if you’re okay with darker subject matter, then I couldn’t recommend this heart pumping thriller more highly.


The Retreat is released on Monday 12th August through Titan Books


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