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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A Murder of Crows: A Short Sequel to The Magpies, by Mark Edwards

Nine stars

Mark Edwards made his fans wait for a time, but the delay only churned up excitement for the formal sequel to his debut novel. After the horrors that befell him in his London flat, Jamie Knight fled the country and the long-reaching grasp of Lucy Newton. Now in Australia, Jamie is trying to piece his life back together. After running into an acquaintance and sparking a renewed interest in all things Lucy Newton, Jamie receives a message on a fan page from a distressed woman, someone who seems to be suffering the same plight as he did. Might Lucy be back at it, now that her charges have been dismissed? Jamie takes the plunge and travels back to the UK, seeking to help Anita with her neighbour issue, while also trying to reconnect with his former partner, Kirsty. Jamie can only hope that Kirsty has forgiven him for all the horrors they went through at the hands of that wretch, Lucy. After arriving and trying to help Anita coax Lucy out of her safe cocoon, Jamie realises that this will be just as difficult the second time around. Armed with new ideas and a stronger intuition, Jamie forges ahead, but Lucy Newton is not one to be messed with lightly. She is hungry for revenge, and Jamie is the ideal target. Edwards jams so much into this short story that the reader will barely have time to breathe. A sensational piece that will sate fans of The Magpies, while leaving them wondering.

Edwards has done it again, piquing the interest of his readers with this stellar piece of writing. I flipped back and confirmed that the first in this series (if one can call it that) was my first attempt at reading Mark Edwards. I loved it then and continue to enjoy the intricacies that are found within the story and narrative. While a shorter piece, Edwards is still able to imbue his characters with some wonderful attributes, especially as Jamie is saddled by the guilt of the original Lucy Newton debacle. Jamie is also seen to be that eternal superhero, helping both Anita and working to build on his past relationship with Kirsty, for what it’s worth. Lucy is, as many Edwards fans remember her, a wicked woman whose constant plotting and conniving had be seen with everything she does. The story earns some of its eerie nature as the renewed Jamie-Lucy clash is presented, though adding the likes of Anita into the mix only thickens the plot more. The story might be brief, but there is much to enjoy within the fourteen chapters, as the narrative forges onward through to a climactic ending. In true Edwards fashion, there is a dangling thread and fans can only hope that it is not forgotten or left blowing around for another five years. Those readers interested in this piece are encouraged to try The Magpies for the full effect. I became a quick fan of Mark Edwards by doing so and am sure many readers will follow in my footsteps.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards, for another brilliant piece. I cannot wait for your next novel and anything else you may have in the works!

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

The Lucky Ones, by Mark Edwards

NIne stars

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

Yet another powerful thriller from the mind of Mark Edwards, pulling the reader into the middle of a serial killer’s rampage, fuelled by an interesting justification. DI Imogen Evans is on the hunt for the Shropshire Viper, someone who has been injecting victims with morphine. While the investigation intensifies, Evans learns of an odd connection between the three victims; something that could blow the case wide open. Is there a degree of ‘luck’ or ‘happiness’ tied to these killings, for both the killer and the victim? In a parallel narrative, Ben Holland has been struggling as a single father, back in the village of his youth. Raising his son, Ollie, and trying to begin divorce proceedings, Ben has been unable to find his niche as he struggled to redefine himself. With the Viper in the area, Ben is forced to confront his estranged wife, Megan, and her new beau, a glitzy television presenter. How will it all play out and does someone have a little ‘luck’ that they might be able to pass along to Ben, under the right circumstances? In this crime thriller that pulls the readers in many directions, Edwards shows how he has earned the reputation of being a fabulous writer. Perfect for those who want to up their heart rate and ponder where the killer might be lying in wait.

I have always found Mark Edwards to be at the top of his game and this novel only further exemplifies that. Working with this one-off novel, the key is to create characters who are both easy to explore and fast to present their backstories. Pair that with the ever-evolving storyline of a murder investigation and the reader is required to juggle a great deal and keep names straight in short order. Edwards writes in such a way that this is no impediment to the larger narrative and the reader is hooked by everything that is going on. Through the interesting technique of random chapters told through the eyes of the killer, the reader is able to discern a few key elements of the crime and crawl inside to better understand the ‘lucky’ mindset that might be feeling these murders. With a wonderful mix of short and longer chapters, the reader hangs on every word and utilises the cliffhanger moments to propel themselves towards the end, unsure how they were able to finish so quickly. Once Edwards has the reader in his grasp, there is no letting go, until the final sentence. Even then, there is an eerie quality of ‘what if’ that keeps the reader pondering. Stellar work by one who has earned the right to call himself great!

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for another wonderful thriller. How you come up with so many wonderful ideas leaves me baffled, but please do not stop. I can see scores of new fans flocking to you once they get their hands on this piece.