It is difficult to write this review without giving spoilers away, but I shall try 🙂 I give this one 4* out of 5*. Actually 4.5* 🙂 It was out in the UK on 13th August 2019.
First of all we have got Katie. She is an ex-child actress, whose career ended when she was young, due to a tragic incident causing facial disfigurement. She riding on the somewhat waning fame of that early success, but finds herself a bit lost in the world. She’s currently living with her brother, or should I say, he is living with her. He looks out for her and keeps her safe, deals with all her problems etc. Unfortunately for Katie, her bro has a fiance called Ellie – who Katie is not so fond of. She’s the typical English rose – all sweet, and annoying, and floaty and happy. Katie instantly dislikes her.
Well, what better way to bond than to go away to a holistic retreat together – that’s what I’d do! Off Katie and Ellie go, with a couple of Katie’s college friends along for the ride too. What happens next is where it gets interesting……
There’s a bloody knife. There’s a body. There’s a hallucinogenic tea. There’s a weird group of Retreat members. And there’s, of course, Katie’s number one fan/stalker thrown into the mix.
Sherri’s writing is funny and sarcastic. It flows well, and it isn’t a hardship to read. I always knew who’s POV we were hearing from at the time, which tells me that each character had their own distinct voice. Not an easy task, when you have so many different characters views being shown.
I enjoyed reading this so much. The characters are ALL flawed – I don’t think I liked any one of them especially. But I was intrigued by most of them and needed to know what was going to happen to them. There are a lot of twists and turns and the story kept me hooked from start to finish. Although I read this is chunks, rather than in one go, I didn’t want to put it down. Very well done on that front. I read the end 40% or so in one go and it was EXHAUSTING! It all happens, it’s unexpected, twisted and oh so fun.
The flashbacks to Katie’s childhood fill in a lot of the information that you need, to work out her character as an adult. Her drinking and self destructive ways are explained away by knowing that she has had some awful things happen to her in the past, even if she was a famous TV star.
I hear you asking, why would you not have given this book a full 5* – are you mad??? Well let me tell you. I love this book, it was tense, angsty, it made me anxious and wanting to read further. BUT, I have read Sherri’s previous book and I (unfairly?) compared it to that the whole way through. I LOVED ‘Follow me down‘, I read it twice in a year I think. And I love Sherri, she’s great – funny, endearing. So, 4.5* is a fair reflection of my views on this one.
Thank you NetGalley and Sherri for an early copy of this one.
I spoke with author Sherri Smith and asked her 5 quick Q’s. Here’s what she said: (spoiler in the first answer!!! – be warned)
1. I found it difficult to like any of the girls on the trip – was this intentional or was it just me? And do you like any of them?
Likeability is something I never consider when reading or writing. I don’t at all understand the need to ‘like’ a character. I prefer flawed characters as they’re more realistic and I personally need a sense of realism in order to escape into a book as a reader. That said, I was also mindful that three out of the four characters would be dead by the end of my book so if I made each as loveable as a golden retriever then the final chapters would be depressing and sad rather than thrilling.
2. Have you ever been on a retreat like the one in the book? (Not one that includes murder, just the holistic/tea-drinking bit)
No, not at all. I have two young children, so the only retreat I get is the bathtub with a book.
3. Do you know the twists in your book before you start? Or do they just happen organically during the writing?
I only have a vague idea of what I want to happen before I start to write, but then as I go along, one twist leads to another and eventually I have a first draft.
4. When you write a novel – do you plan it all out first, or do you make it up as you go along? What is your process? Detailed plan Vs. wing it?
I do try to start with an outline, but by the time I finish a draft, I’ve completely changed directions. I wouldn’t recommend writing this way, as it leads to a great deal of floundering. So, I guess I wing it, but have big aspirations to be much more organized and efficient.
5. What is in store for your next novel? Can you tell us anything at all?
I have two things on the go right now, but again, because I do wing it so much it would probably be pointless to say much about them other than they’re both thrillers.
She’s such a tease! But thanks so much Sherri for chatting with us. Go out and buy The Retreat now, you won’t be disappointed. And I can’t recommend Sherri’s previous novel, Follow me down, enough – might as well get both while you’re at it! 🙂
About the author
Sherri Smith has previously written two historical fiction novels for Simon & Schuster UK. When not writing she spends time with her family, three rescue dogs and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.