Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2018
It may have been the title, that first sparked my interest. I have been to a retreat – not a retreat for writers – but – it was a good experience. Both retreats were set in a forest, yet a town was somewhere not too far away. I could imagine the solitude, dark mysterious woods, being by the water, sudden unexpected sounds and in this book – a mystery. What could be lurking in the forest? Or indeed in the house? A lost little girl? Mother in mourning? Unfolding secrets? Yes, I could give this book a go.
Mark Edwards is an author that certainly appeals to lot of people. He writes psychological mysteries involving regular, normal people. For this book he combined an actual event involving children – though not the one in this book – and the known fact that there can be strange beliefs held within different communities. Beliefs that will be guarded.
The Retreat is set in Wales, which was of interest to me, and before I started I googled the place the invented town was supposed to be close to. Lovely hills and forests. Flowers too. Daffodils. Wild daffodils even appear in the book.
The text of The Retreat flows very naturally and it is easy to read. Sentences are rather more short than long. Characters can be described with two distinguishing features like for example bald head combined with bad teeth. Mark Edwards is clearly able to use varied techniques to make the reader involved. There are cliffhangers at the end of the chapters and occasionally one has to wait a chapter, as the book goes back in time. Mark Edwards, however, does not overdo this. Though going back in time and unfolding gradually from the viewpoint of the lost little girl could be experienced as a bit of a cop out. And actually, I did not take long to read the book, but this was also because I had some time to fill.
How should I rate the book? I am hovering between three and four. It is a light read and as such cannot get a five. Yet, it was entertaining and Mark Edwards worked hard to come up with a plausible scenario, even if it is a bit far fetched, and the final hit can be seen coming. I don’t consider that I have wasted my time, but after two pretty similar easy reads (The Retreat and The Chalk Man), I am now considering Margaret Attwood’s (Handmaid’s Tale) or a classic to satisfy me next.