Elin Warner has been on leave from her police career in the U.K. after a traumatic case has left her questioning her own abilities.
Now, her brother Isaac has invited her and her boyfriend, Will to visit a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps to attend his engagement party. Once there, some of the old antagonisms resurface, for her relationship with her brother has always been overshadowed by what happened when they were children. When their younger brother drowned…
Shortly after they arrive, Isaac’s fiance disappears. This is just the beginning of what turns out to be a horrific experience for Elin and all the rest of the residents of the hotel. Bodies turn up. Someone is killing in a ritualistic fashion. They wear masks on their face… masks like those used years ago, when the hotel was a sanatorium.
Severe January weather, coupled with an avalanche, prohibit the police from coming to the hotel. Elin investigates on her own, the best she can…
Anyone searching for an adrenaline packed read will adore this book!
To say it was atmospheric would be an understatement. The renovation of the old sanatorium was done in a minimalist style, with lots of glass walls. This evoked a cold, and oftentimes menacing feeling – even without the grisly murders.
The protagonist was a likable character though deeply flawed both mentally and physically. She suffered from a childhood trauma, a more recent work-related trauma, and as a result she had panic attacks which exacerbated her already present asthma.
The short chapters made for an intense and rapid reading experience. There were several plot twists and red herrings that will appeal to many readers, but I found some of them to be rather improbable at times.
If I had to pick a flaw in the novel, it would be that I didn’t feel the motive for the killings was sufficiently strong to merit the actions of the killer.
This book was touted as a ‘gothic thriller’. Yes, it was thrilling, but I found little to credit the word gothic. Perhaps if the hotel hadn’t been renovated? Even then, I don’t think so…
Overall, this was a fast read for me. One I did enjoy, but found lacking in some small ways. The ending felt rushed and yes, implausible.
I thoroughly enjoyed the remote and isolated locale which turned this thriller into a ‘locked room mystery’ as well. I would read another book featuring DS Elin Warner, just to see if she evolves more as a character.
An immersive read perfect for a cold, snowy, winter’s day.
I borrowed a digital copy of this novel from my local public library via the Libby app.
Published: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Penguin Random House (Pamela Dorman Books)
ISBN: 9780593296684 – ASIN: B08D8K4Y1N – 400 pages
Sarah Pearse grew up in Devon, UK, and studied English literature and creative writing at the University of Warwick before completing a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism. She lived in Switzerland for several years before returning to the UK. The Sanatorium, her debut, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and was selected as a Reese’s Book Club Pick. The Retreat is her second novel.