The Retreat, by Mark Edwards

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mark Edwards, Amazon Publishing, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In his latest thriller, Mark Edwards adds a degree of the paranormal while also creating a mystery that will keep the reader guessing. Lucas Radcliffe is still riding the wave of his latest bestseller, exploring a number of missing children who were taking by a mysterious beast. Seeking to gather himself as he begins his next piece, Radcliffe makes his way to a writers’ retreat in North Wales. On his way up to the secluded spot, Radcliffe learns more about the local lore and the proprietress’ own personal tragedy; a daughter, Lily, who went missing two years ago and a husband who drowned the same day, looking for her. Radcliffe is curious, though understandably reticent to speak about it when it is introduced to Julia Marsh. Could this story of the Red Widow have any basis in truth or simply be a way the locals keep themselves in check? Radcliffe divulges what he knows to Julia, who is still traumatised by the happenings two years before. Wishing to help, Radcliffe hires his own P.I., hoping to make sense of what he knows. When odd things begin happening inside the retreat, Radcliffe wonders more about the lore, but cannot admit to himself or anyone else that he might be ready to accept it. Julia is convinced that her daughter will be back and must be ready for the inevitable. When people tied to the community begin turned up dead, Radcliffe is convinced that there’s a coverup, both tied to the recent disappearance, but also to the lore that posits the Red Widow will arrive every thirty-five years to take a child as a sacrifice. As panic mounts and a collection of writings reveals many secrets Lucas Radcliffe may have stumbled upon something more captivating than any novel he could wish to create. Edwards is brilliant yet again and delivers a stunning thriller sure to keep the reader hooked through to the final pages.

I have always loved a good Mark Edwards novel, especially as they do not follow too strict a writing path. Edwards is able to breathe chills into his writing while keeping the story plausible and unique from past publications. His creation of Lucas Radcliffe is surely a loose mirroring of himself, an author with a collection of darker ideas. Radcliffe does come across as a little passive in his appearance throughout the piece, but does have a sense of determination, especially when a mystery emerges. He seems eager to help, though it is readily apparent that his literary net is always out, seeking tidbits for another novel that may help him further explore his dark thriller side (like Edwards?). Julia Mars proves to be another strong and alluring character, whose focus on trying to find her daughter trumps everything else. Seeking to protect herself from the outside world, Julia is less a waif than seeking to foster what little strength she has left. The cast of secondary characters are well developed and help to create a curious mystery throughout. Spanning over thirty-five years, the characters have honed their personalities and proved as secretive as they are forthcoming, creating an interesting duality that only the reader is able to see. The story may seem a little silly, paranormal in its delivery, but Edwards does a wonderful job to provide the reader with a mystery and chilling narrative that weaves into many unexpected twists and keeps the story from becoming too predictable. Layering the present narrative with both flashbacks of Lily’s final year before her disappearance and some journal entries back in 1980, Edwards keeps the story fresh and the reader engaged, which allows them to become lost and pleasantly surprised.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards, for delivering yet another powerful piece that thrills and shows just how versatile a writer you have become.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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