The Retreat, by Mark Edwards

What’s not to love about a story set in a writers’ retreat in Wales? Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Except in Mark Edwards’ story, The Retreat, something’s not quite right. What are the strange sounds the guests hear? Figments of their imaginations, or something more sinister? And there’s something eerie and mysterious about the woods that surround it as well.

I was very quickly caught up in this story which slowly revealed itself to be a clever blend of mystery, folklore and thriller. Horror writer Lucas comes to stay at the retreat to rediscover his voice and inspiration. The beautiful owner, Julia, has recently suffered a double tragedy – her daughter went missing, presumed drowned, and her husband drowned in the river trying to save her.

Even though the pace, especially during the first half, is mostly gentle, this book is seriously gripping. I loved the effortless use of the English language. There was a touch of everything in this multi-layered tale: superstition, folklore and legend; grief; romance; murder; and an intriguing back story about a tragedy that happened many years before. The story gets more and more chilling as it unfolds – and this has to be the best epilogue I’ve read for a long time! I was nowhere near guessing the outcome, and most of what happened took me completely by surprise.

Book blurb:

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

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