A massive happy publication day to Mark Edwards whose latest thriller, The Retreat, sets off into the world today. I was thrilled when asked if I’d like to join the blog tour and my thanks go to publishers Thomas & Mercer for the advance copy of the book for review. I was very late to reading Mark Edwards work but was hooked by the last two novels. Love reading a ‘local’ author’s work and with this latest book set in a writer’s retreat in North Wales, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. Here is what it’s all about.
About the Book
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?
From the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies comes his most terrifying novel yet.
Okay .. so this book had all the bells ringing for me when I started reading, for reasons that don’t mean anything to other readers I am sure, but made me smile. I have a great-niece called Lilly and her brother is Lucas … Add in the fact the Private Investigator in this book is from an area of Telford just a couple of miles from where I work and … well. It amused me.
Those small coincidences aside, I absolutely devoured this book. Totally a one afternoon sitting kind of a read. As soon as I picked it up I knew it was going to have to set aside any other plans (which were in fairness rather limited) and just devote myself to reading as I was hooked from the off. Mark Edwards set the scene in the most dramatic of ways – the disappearance of young Lily. So small, so innocent, a scene so totally shocking that took me completely unawares and I was compelled to read on to find out what was going on and why.
Cue the main body of the story. Writer Lucas is trying desperately hard to write a follow up to his massively successful horror novel but struggling to find muse or focus after the loss of his long term partner. Booking himself into a writer’s retreat near his hometown, he has no idea of the history of owner Julia, and the tragic story which haunts her. The longer he stays at the retreat, the more he finds out about Julia and her missing daughter, Lily, the more determined he is to help her find peace. As Lucas starts to look into what happened on that fateful day years ago, terrifying things start to happen, not only at the house, but in the neighbouring community, events which put everyone’s lives at risk.
Man, oh man, what a story. The whole idea of a missing child is bad enough. Who would abduct a young girl and, in spite of what her mother may believe, can she possibly still be alive after all this time? But when you take this most harrowing of circumstances and give it a Mark Edwards twist, you are assured of a read which is not only thrilling but, in this case, totally chilling too. Capturing some of the uncertain and creeping edge which underpinned The Devil’s Work, and there is a nod to that book in that Julia used to work as an illustrator for Jackdaw, Mr Edwards has pulled together one hell of a read with an undercurrent of unease from start to finish. Mysterious noises in the walls, spirit guides, unexplained voices singing in an empty bedroom – the atmosphere in this book is eerie to say the least, the mystery compelling.
What I love about Mark Edwards’ work is the way he is able to make you so invested in the characters. He has quite the mixture here, beginning with Lucas, damaged by his personal loss and able to easily identify with Julia as a result. He was a character I warmed to immediately, and this is just as well as the majority of the story is told in first person from his perspective. Julia was harder to get to know but as a quiet character, easy to sympathise with her and her overwhelming sense of loss. The other writers, Karen, Suzi, Max and eventually Ursula make up a real mix of characters, from the slightly odd to the downright rude, but all felt real. Then there are the villagers, all trying to keep their own counsel as secrets from the past, gradually revealed, do not make for good reading.
There is a sense of the otherworldly about this novel, local superstition and folk-lore informing the story in surprising ways. So many suspects to divert your attention and so many people who had made such grave errors in the past which now begin to impact the present. The pacing of the book was spot on, matching the story with slower periods of reflection contrasting against the high tension, heart thumping moments of peril. Skin crawling characterisations kept me on high alert and as segments of the story moved to Lily’s perspective in the months leading up to her disappearance, I could feel myself being drawn deeper and deeper into the story. This was quite probably my favourite book so far by this author. Top stuff combining all the things I like in a story – chills, thrills and a good old-fashioned mystery.
And then that ending … Just desserts? Quite possibly but not what I was expecting. Bravo sir.
If you are a fan of Mark Edwards you are in for a treat. If you haven’t read any of his work before, then do not worry. This is a standalone and a perfect place to start. What are you waiting for? You can bag a copy for yourself at the following links:
About the Author
Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.
His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For(2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home (2015).
He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death (2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle(2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.
Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.
When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke. Website.
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