This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
13.08.19 / Titan Books / Psychological Thriller / Paperback / 432pp / 978-1785654060
Target Audience: Readers ready for an intense psychological thriller about obsession, revenge, discovery and punishment.
About The Retreat
Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.
Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancée invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends—one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship—Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.
Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.
My Review of The Retreat
‘She rolled her eyes and pressed harder on the tree branch, hoping she’d hear the conclusive snap of a windpipe and she’d finally get to move on. “Just die already,” she said in a tired voice, then at last, it was quiet. No more movement. She waited a beat to be sure she’d really finished the job this time. Even took a moment to appreciate the inky beauty of moonlit blood as it oozed and pooled on the rocks. The peaceful silence after death. Finally, she was living in the moment.’
The Retreat – Sherri Smith
Sherri Smith’s The Retreat is an intense, compulsive and passionate psychological thriller that explores the tumultuous effects of blame, abuse and obsession that ramps up the tension to unbelievable heights and delivers one of the best endings to a thriller novel I have seen this year. Sherri Smith knows how to build up her characters just to break them back down in front of our eyes and The Retreat was an excellent testament to Sherri’s skill as a writer.
The Retreat made me just as uncomfortable as it actually charmed me at alarmingly frequent intervals. It was a strange feeling but as the events unfolded, I seemed to unfold with them. Ultimately everything hinged on the big finale and I was so relieved to see that Sherri Smith nailed it. If you like clear-cut semi-happy endings then this is not for you. If you like fiction that forms that unrelenting pit in your stomach that slowly builds until you can’t sit still and have to know the truth, then The Retreat is waiting for you.
The narrative in The Retreat focuses on four women but Katie Manning is the central protagonist. Katie was a child star of a high-school detective show called Shelby Spade. Shelby was an icon who feel from grace when Katie was attacked by her manager and was left with facial scars. Katie’s subsequent years have not been kind, burning through her nest egg with little success or care for her well-being. Katie is on her last leg and when Ellie, her brother Nate’s fiance, recommends the Sanctuary. Katie believes that it might be the transformative experience that will bring Katie back to life.
Up until this point Ellie has had a hard time bonding with Katie. She feels that Katie doesn’t like her which is a problem, especially since Nate is so close to Katie himself, and so arranges a retreat to the Sanctuary to clear the air. Katie agrees and Ellie is relieved that her plans are set in motion. Ellie has big plans for Katie at the retreat and will stop at nothing to see them through. Frustrated that Katie has invited her two college besties, Carmen and Ariel, along for the ride but adapting is something Ellie is very used to. Katie wants to use her time at the The Sanctuary to unravel her mind and break through her barriers. Ellie is there to give her a helping hand. As events escalate and the group’s treatments intensify, many truths are revealed and there will be consequences.
The Retreat is packed with mystery, thrills and epic moments of pure evil. I sat there as the narrative developed wondering how far this book can go and hoping that the motivations behind such actions were just. It all hinged on the big reveal for me and Sherri Smith executed it perfectly. There is a lot to get into with The Retreat. The themes were solid. Offering some fantastic psychological insights into many different aspects of life varying from child fame, abuse, addiction and blame to illness, grief, dissociative disorders and guilt.
The character development was interesting and incredibly dark. I was glad to see that Carmen and Ariel weren’t just token friends to buffer the story but that they had their own arcs, problems to face and overall impact on the conclusion. Each person had their own presence in the proceedings, battling their own demons. Which leads me to Ellie. What a character! If she was even the slightest bit less fixated on Katie then I wouldn’t be writing such a positive review but Sherri Smith crafted her with such passion that I was actually wincing at her revelations. I liked the cycle of story telling, going from Katie to Ellie to Ariel and then to Carmen and repeat. SS stuck to that pattern and I think it made the flow of the book feel more enticing because you knew who was up next and where they were in the timeline.
Sherri Smith’s psychological thriller writing is hard to beat. There are so many strong prose here, especially towards the end, that I wanted to share but didn’t want to spoil. There are plenty of moments to talk about, from devastating tweets and sleepwalking murderers to obsessive planners and impulsive schemers but I am trying so hard not to spoil anything here. Sherri Smith even nailed the douche-bag health nut shaman owner of The Sanctuary, Dr Dave, who offered some of the more light-hearted moments to be had in The Retreat. There are plenty angles and edges to The Retreat to keep the readers mind flexible and ready for anything.
There are many reasons to pick up this book for a variety of readers. It’s going to be interesting to sit and try to unpick everything I experienced here but I will wholeheartedly recommend The Retreat to both new and seasoned readers of psychological thrillers, those who like elaborate stories of revenge and reminders of how life never goes to plan no matter how meticulous people can be. How each of our lives have the chance to domino effect another in many ways. Give The Retreat a go and let me know what you thought.
About Sherri Smith
Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two 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. Follow Me Down is her first thriller, which has been described as “an engrossing page turner” by Diane Chamberlain, bestselling author of The Silent Sister.