REVIEW: The Retreat by Mark Edwards

Series: N/A

Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: horror thriller, supernatural elements, missing children, cold cases, amateur detectives, obsessive detectives

Quick Review: A solidly written, genuinely creepy mystery that will keep you turning pages even while dreading the ending.

***

Julia Marsh has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning before her eyes in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, presumed dead. Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. But as money runs out, Julia needs to find a way to keep hold of their beautiful and secluded family home. She decides to open a writer’s retreat.

Lucas is a successful novelist suffering from writer’s block and one of the first guests. He’s no stranger to personal tragedy and forms an instant bond with his host, Julia. The longer he stays, the more a local legend of the Red Widow, a fabled witch who kidnaps young girls, captures his imagination. But as Lucas delves into details of these disappearances, and as locals take more than a passing interest in his investigations, Lucas finds himself at the center of a very real horror story. The retreat is harboring secrets: all Lucas must do is separate the facts from the fiction before the ghosts of this small town.

Mark Edwards’ THE RETREAT is an unsettling mystery that blends a whodunnit cold case with some of the creepiest elements of supernatural horror. Delving deep into the local lore of a secluded section of rural Wales, Edwards has crafted a disturbing tale that is probably best labelled psychological horror or thriller, following a writer as he tries to unravel how the local stories about the Red Widow could be connected to the disappearance of children.

Edwards’ building of the lore and the strange happenings is convincing enough to make you question your belief in a rational explanation. Despite some fairly showy apparitions, you begin to doubt that there is any normal reason for the occurrences that the characters are experiencing. It makes the book creepy in the best way of well-written horror: it’s actually believable that the Red Widow might be real.

That is wonderfully combined with a solidly-plotted investigation by an amateur detective. Edwards balances this investigation wonderfully, with a logical progression of discoveries and conclusions, a reasonable number of facts discovered in believable ways, and the facts available to you as the reader in the same way that they are to the characters. Not only does this mean that you are drawn in to the investigation by trying to draw your own conclusions, but it also makes the ending all the more satisfying.

And the ending is an excellent wrap-up to a well-crafted, slow build of tension that is sustained over the entire course of the novel. Edwards has done a fantastic job of subtly ratcheting up that tension, helped by his quirky but often very interesting cast of characters: some of the locals and writers stand large as life in your imagination.

THE RETREAT is the kind of horror/psychological thriller that you don’t want to put down, and never want to end — despite being desperate to find out the answer to the mystery! Edwards has created an extremely well-done novel that is a wonderful, satisfying and creepy read.

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